Korea realty company allowed to work with Area II personnel again
Stars and Stripes August 16, 2009
SEOUL — A realty company banned from working with U.S. Forces Korea personnel in Seoul because it allegedly skimmed cash from inflated leases has been allowed to resume working with the military after promising to take “corrective measures,” according to military officials.
Julie’s Realty was put off limits in Area II in February 2008, because it was submitting lease documents to USFK for rents that were higher than the amounts charged by landlords, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan spokesman Dave McNally said.
The off-limits restrictions were removed Aug. 1 after a year and a half of appeals hearings before Yongsan’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board and a promise by owner Julie Baek to allow on-site audits.
Baek also agreed that landlords would attend lease signings and that her representatives would attach a written statement disclosing fee arrangements with the property owner to all leases, McNally said. Baek’s company will also remain on probation for three months.
Baek said last week in a phone interview that she had known “for some time” that her business would be reinstated, but hung up on a Stars and Stripes reporter who asked for more information. Baek has said little to Stripes about the matter since 2008, except that she did nothing wrong and that the off-limits designation was based on a misunderstanding.
Garrison officials had refused until last week to say why Julie’s Realty was put off limits. But according to a Feb. 15, 2008, letter to Baek from the then-Disciplinary Control Board president Tillman Moses, Baek had made more than 100 lease agreements between January 2006 and August 2007 between South Korean landlords and Department of Defense personnel.
Baek then “made false contracts in place of the original contracts which had inflated prices and not the original prices negotiated with the landlords,” wrote Moses, who also is general manager of Yongsan’s Installation Management Command.
Moses also wrote that Baek had admitted to the practice and to “keeping the rest of the illicit government funds for personal use.” She also told a CID agent that she had been doing so since 2005 or 2006, and felt the practice was legal, Moses wrote.
His letter did not specify dollar amounts involved in the practice. Stripes requested the dollar figures involved and whether any of the money was recovered. McNally said the request was sent to Yongsan legal officials for review, but no information had been released as of Friday.
Criminal Investigation Command spokesman Chris Grey said the agency investigated Julie’s Realty from August 2007 to February 2008, but CID declined Stripes’ request for the case file, saying it was protected by privacy regulations.
During the time it was off limits, Julie’s Realty was allowed to continue renting apartments to USFK personnel outside Area II, which includes Yongsan and other bases in and near Seoul. USFK personnel in Area II were allowed to keep housing contracts made through Julie’s Realty before the ban went into effect, but were not allowed to enter into new contracts involving the real estate firm.
When asked why the company was allowed to continue working outside Area II, IMCOM-Korea spokesman Slade Walters said each garrison’s commander was responsible for deciding if a business would be off-limits. When asked if other garrisons were notified about the allegations surrounding Julie’s Realty at Yongsan, he said the posting of off-limits establishments on each garrison’s Web site was “de-facto notification” because that information was publicly available.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.