Army chief suspected of speculation
By Jung Sung-ki
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Hwang Eui-don is suspected of having engaged in real estate speculation based on inside information about the government’s relaxation of regulations on the height of buildings around military installations.
According to military sources, Hwang bought a two-story building with a total floor area of 316 square meters near the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan, Seoul, in August 2002.
At that time, Hwang served as the spokesman for the ministry.
Just four months after buying the building, the ministry announced a plan to relax the height of buildings in the Yongsan area to allow construction of buildings of up to 95 meters in height.
Hwang subsequently borrowed about 760 million won ($670,000) from the bank and remodeled the building to make it a six-story building with a total floor area of 1,013 square meters in 2003, according to the sources.
The building is now worth about 6 billion won, as the government-assed land value spiked from some 500 million won to about 2.1 billion won in the past few years.
Amid such claims, some critics say Hwang might have secured information on the relaxation of the height of buildings prior to the official announcement.
The Army chief denies the allegation, however, saying he was not in the position to have access to such classified information.
An Army spokesman said, “Hwang had already been cleared of that suspicion on land speculation, as he has gone through several promotion reviews before.”
A graduate of the Korea Military Academy from 1975, Hwang served in key posts regarding military intelligence and policymaking at the defense ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He was the first commander of the Zaytun Division deployed to Iraq in 2004. Before taking up the current post, he served as deputy commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
황의돈 육군총장 재산 증여 의혹
황의돈 육군 참모총장이 군의 고도제한 완화 관련 비밀 정보를 기반으로 재산증여를 한 것이 아니냐는 의혹이 일고 있다.
소식통에 의하면, 황 총장은 지난 2002년 8월 용산 국방부 청사 근처의 한 2층짜리 건물을 매입했다. 황 총장이 국방부 대변인을 역임하던 시절이다.
건물 매입 4달 후 국방부는 건물 고도제한을 95미터로 완화하는 계획을 발표한다.
이듬해 황 총장은 은행에서 7억 6천만여 원을 빌려 6층 건물로 재건축 한 것으로 알려진다. 현재 그 건물은 60억원 상당에 이르는 것으로 알려진다.
이에 대해 일각에선 황 총장이 당시 건물 고도제한 완화 관련 정보를 미리 입수한 것 아니냐는 의혹의 눈길을 보낸다.
하지만 육군 총장 측은 이와 같은 의혹을 부인하며 당시 그러한 정보를 입수할 수 있는 직책도 아니었다고 반론했다.
육군 관계자는 “황 총장은 더구나 그간의 진급 심사를 통해서 관련된 의혹들이 모두 해명된 상태”라고 말했다.