Lawmaker to quit ruling party over alleged property speculation

SEOUL, A ruling party lawmaker embroiled in allegations of real estate speculation said Sunday that she will quit the Democratic Party (DP) to avoid placing a political burden on the party.

Rep. Sohn Hye-won has come under fire following allegations that she mobilized her relatives and aides to buy properties in an old district of Mokpo, 410 kilometers southwest of Seoul, before authorities designated it as a cultural asset site.

She has strongly denied the allegations.

"I cannot drive the people into a meaningless war of attrition. I'll give up party membership," Sohn told a press conference. "If the prosecution probe finds out that the allegation is true, I'll also give up my parliamentary seat."

Sohn is alleged to have used inside information she obtained while serving on the parliamentary culture committee and to have provided money to her relatives for the purchases.

She has denied the allegations, claiming that she encouraged her aides to buy properties as an act of goodwill to revive the city.

Most of the buildings bought by Sohn's relatives and aides are believed to have been constructed during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial occupation.

The DP's leadership decided last week not to punish her, judging that she had not intended to make a speculative investment in properties.

But since then, the party has been facing negative public sentiment and criticism from opposition parties, who are calling for a prosecution investigation into the allegations.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) called for hearings in relevant parliamentary committees to uncover the truth in Sohn's case. It said the controversy was an issue of influence-peddling and corruption.

Sohn is serving as the DP's chief of the parliamentary culture committee. She is believed to have raised the need to restore cultural assets in Mokpo at a budget panel meeting of the culture committee in November 2017.

Sohn said on her Facebook account Friday that she is willing to face a prosecution probe if the entities involved in the allegation and local broadcaster SBS, which first reported the case, also accept it.

The first-time lawmaker said Sunday that she will file a complaint against SBS for spreading false information and defaming her.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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