SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) — Corporate ownership of land in South Korea has been on a steady rise in recent years amid rising criticism of conglomerates’ real estate investment, government data showed Tuesday.

South Korean companies owned 6.953 square kilometers of land in 2019, up 1.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

It represents 11.3 percent of the country’s total land area, up from a 10.1 percent share in 2012.

Corporate land ownership had been growing annually since 2012 before inching down in 2018 and bouncing back last year.

The increase in corporate land ownership comes as South Korea’s family-controlled conglomerates, widely known as chaebol, are under flak for indulging in real estate development and leasing businesses.

The Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice has announced that the value of land owned by the country’s top five chaebol — Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK, LG and Lotte — has risen by 61 trillion won (US$54 billion) over the past 23 years.

In contrast to the upturn in corporate land ownership, land owned by individuals has been declining steadily over the cited period, the data also showed.

Individuals owned 46,633 square kilometers of land in South Korea last year, lower than 46,755 square kilometers in 2018 and 47,504 square kilometers seven years earlier.