search close
Tue, October 20, 2020 | 18:05
  1. 478th Turtle Marathon
    The Hankook Ilbo, the sister paper of The Korea Times, hosted the 478th Turtle Marathon at Namsan Park in central Seoul, Saturday. Participants included Hankook Ilbo President Lee Jun-hee, first row seventh from left; Director-General of the Healthcare Policy Bureau at Ministry of Health and Welfare Kang Do-tae, fifth from left; Korea Health Promotion Institute President Cho In-sung, sixth from left; and finalists of the 2018 Miss Korea beauty pageant. / Korea Times photo by Shin Sang-soon
    The Hankook Ilbo, the sister paper of The Korea Times, hosted the 478th Turtle Marathon at Namsan Park in central Seoul, Saturday. Participants included Hankook Ilbo President Lee Jun-hee, first row seventh from left; Director-General of the Healthcare Policy Bureau at Ministry of Health and Welfare Kang Do-tae, fifth from left; Korea Health Promotion Institute President Cho In-sung, sixth from left; and finalists of the 2018 Miss Korea beauty pageant. / Korea Times photo by Shin Sang-soon
  2. Celebrating Korea-Czech relations
    Visitors to the National Museum of Korea take a look at Bohemian glass relics at a special exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and the Czech Republic, Monday. The exhibition runs until April 26. / Yonhap
    Visitors to the National Museum of Korea take a look at Bohemian glass relics at a special exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and the Czech Republic, Monday. The exhibition runs until April 26. / Yonhap
  3. To-be-built dormitory
    Ewha Womans University President Kim Sun-uk, right, points to an artist’s rendering of a dormitory planned for the school’s campus in Seoul, Tuesday, during a groundbreaking ceremony. Those listening to her are, from left, Choi Kyung-hee, the next president of the university; Chang Myong-sue, head of Ewha Haktang; Yoon Hoo-jung, Ewha’s honorary president; and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon./ Courtesy of Ewha Womans University
    Ewha Womans University President Kim Sun-uk, right, points to an artist’s rendering of a dormitory planned for the school’s campus in Seoul, Tuesday, during a groundbreaking ceremony. Those listening to her are, from left, Choi Kyung-hee, the next president of the university; Chang Myong-sue, head of Ewha Haktang; Yoon Hoo-jung, Ewha’s honorary president; and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon./ Courtesy of Ewha Womans University
  4. Return of Goryeo treasure
    An ancient chest used to store Buddhist texts is on display during a ceremony at the National Museum of Korea, Tuesday. The nation’s flagship museum acquired the rare Goryeo Kingdom (918—1392) heritage from a Japanese collector./ Yonhap
    An ancient chest used to store Buddhist texts is on display during a ceremony at the National Museum of Korea, Tuesday. The nation’s flagship museum acquired the rare Goryeo Kingdom (918—1392) heritage from a Japanese collector./ Yonhap
  5. Beauty pageant
    2014 Miss Korea Kim Seo-yeon, 22, waves after winning the annual pageant at the Olympic Hall in the Olympic Park, southern Seoul, Tuesday. The first runners-up were Lee Seo-bin, 21, and Shin Su-min, 20; the second runners-up were Kim Myeong-seon, 21, Sarah Lee, 23, Baek Ji-hyun, 21, and Ryu So-ra, 20. The Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, organized the beauty contest./ Korea Times photo by Wang Tae-seok
    2014 Miss Korea Kim Seo-yeon, 22, waves after winning the annual pageant at the Olympic Hall in the Olympic Park, southern Seoul, Tuesday. The first runners-up were Lee Seo-bin, 21, and Shin Su-min, 20; the second runners-up were Kim Myeong-seon, 21, Sarah Lee, 23, Baek Ji-hyun, 21, and Ryu So-ra, 20. The Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, organized the beauty contest./ Korea Times photo by Wang Tae-seok
  6. Dami Im in Seoul
    Dami Im, who was the winner of the Australian audition program “The X-Factor” last year sings at the showcase for her debut  album “Dami Im” in Samseong-dong, Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap
    Dami Im, who was the winner of the Australian audition program “The X-Factor” last year sings at the showcase for her debut  album “Dami Im” in Samseong-dong, Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap
  7. Putting lives on the line amid COVID-19 [PHOTOS]
    Jobseekers flock to the Guro labor market in the early morning before darkness has lifted. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulBy Bae Eun-jooA recent news report showing thousands of jobseekers lined up looking for a day’s work early in the morning raised the alarm over economic woes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What also seriously concerned people was that many of the people gathered at Guro labor market were not wearing face masks or abiding by social distancing rules.Guro labor market is Korea’s largest gathering place for day laborers who get by living hand to mouth. Mostly construction laborers, they flock to the site between 3:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. to be picked up for a day job, if they are lucky. Many of the workers in the crowd are non-nationals, including ethnic Koreans from China, who are not fluent in Korean to understand quarantine guidelines well.People anxiously wait for their names to be called out every morning. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulThe market usually attracts thousands of people every morning, but the number of jobseekers has increased with the increasing job losses amid the continued economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, which has infected roughly one in 10 people worldwide.Fearing a mass virus outbreak at the labor market, Guro District Office dispatched officials to the place during the early morning hours to guide jobseekers through safety measures. Officials say the number of laborers searching for a day’s work has almost tripled over the last few months as compared to 500 to 800 people at the beginning of this year. Whereas Chinese workers used to constitute the majority of jobseekers at the labor market, more and more Korean laborers including those in their 20s and 30s have been showing up recently, officials said.People are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection as quarantine rules are difficult to keep. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulKorea lost 274,000 jobs in August, continuing a downward trend for the sixth consecutive month, according to government data. Employment levels contracted with declines of 195,000 in March, 476,000 in April, 392,000 in May, 352,000 in June and 277,000 in July. This was the longest period in which Asia’s fourth-largest economy saw its employment rate continue falling since 2009 when the country was reeling from the blows it suffered under the lash of the 2008 global financial crisis.After their names are called, laborers climb into the van, not asking where they will be taken. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulThe employment rate for those aged 15 or older in August was 60.4 percent, a 1 percentage point year-on-year decline, marking the lowest rate since August 2013 when the figure stood at 60.2 percent. The unemployment rate in the same month was 3.1 percent, a 0.1 percent year-on-year rise, marking 6,000 more unemployed compared with the same period last year. The recorded number of unemployed persons in August was 864,000. A man who failed to find a day’s work wanders around the market. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
    Jobseekers flock to the Guro labor market in the early morning before darkness has lifted. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulBy Bae Eun-jooA recent news report showing thousands of jobseekers lined up looking for a day’s work early in the morning raised the alarm over economic woes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What also seriously concerned people was that many of the people gathered at Guro labor market were not wearing face masks or abiding by social distancing rules.Guro labor market is Korea’s largest gathering place for day laborers who get by living hand to mouth. Mostly construction laborers, they flock to the site between 3:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. to be picked up for a day job, if they are lucky. Many of the workers in the crowd are non-nationals, including ethnic Koreans from China, who are not fluent in Korean to understand quarantine guidelines well.People anxiously wait for their names to be called out every morning. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulThe market usually attracts thousands of people every morning, but the number of jobseekers has increased with the increasing job losses amid the continued economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, which has infected roughly one in 10 people worldwide.Fearing a mass virus outbreak at the labor market, Guro District Office dispatched officials to the place during the early morning hours to guide jobseekers through safety measures. Officials say the number of laborers searching for a day’s work has almost tripled over the last few months as compared to 500 to 800 people at the beginning of this year. Whereas Chinese workers used to constitute the majority of jobseekers at the labor market, more and more Korean laborers including those in their 20s and 30s have been showing up recently, officials said.People are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection as quarantine rules are difficult to keep. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulKorea lost 274,000 jobs in August, continuing a downward trend for the sixth consecutive month, according to government data. Employment levels contracted with declines of 195,000 in March, 476,000 in April, 392,000 in May, 352,000 in June and 277,000 in July. This was the longest period in which Asia’s fourth-largest economy saw its employment rate continue falling since 2009 when the country was reeling from the blows it suffered under the lash of the 2008 global financial crisis.After their names are called, laborers climb into the van, not asking where they will be taken. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulThe employment rate for those aged 15 or older in August was 60.4 percent, a 1 percentage point year-on-year decline, marking the lowest rate since August 2013 when the figure stood at 60.2 percent. The unemployment rate in the same month was 3.1 percent, a 0.1 percent year-on-year rise, marking 6,000 more unemployed compared with the same period last year. The recorded number of unemployed persons in August was 864,000. A man who failed to find a day’s work wanders around the market. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
  8. Visiting hometowns despite virus risk [PHOTOS]
    Despite the South Korean government's repeated messages urging citizens not to travel to their hometowns to celebrate Korean Thanksgiving holiday, or Chuseok, on Oct. 1 to minimize the danger of further clusters of COVID-19 infections, some people chose to take the risk and headed to meet their loved ones outside the city. At Seoul Station on Tuesday, travelers hurried not to miss their trains while station officers spared no time in monitoring consistently changing crowds over concerns of coronavirus inside the station. This year's Chuseok has been highlighted as a highly volatile threshold that can lead to another spike in virus cases that have been kept under 100 daily in the past few days. Whether the fears will be realized remains to be seen after this week when many of the 51 million population mix across the country ― which will make tracing patients' movement routes virtually impossible. Korea Times photos by Choi Won-suk
    Despite the South Korean government's repeated messages urging citizens not to travel to their hometowns to celebrate Korean Thanksgiving holiday, or Chuseok, on Oct. 1 to minimize the danger of further clusters of COVID-19 infections, some people chose to take the risk and headed to meet their loved ones outside the city. At Seoul Station on Tuesday, travelers hurried not to miss their trains while station officers spared no time in monitoring consistently changing crowds over concerns of coronavirus inside the station. This year's Chuseok has been highlighted as a highly volatile threshold that can lead to another spike in virus cases that have been kept under 100 daily in the past few days. Whether the fears will be realized remains to be seen after this week when many of the 51 million population mix across the country ― which will make tracing patients' movement routes virtually impossible. Korea Times photos by Choi Won-suk
  9. Wishing upon a moon [PHOTOS]
    People exercise near a glowing full moon installation in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukBy Bae Eun-jooChuseok, Korea’s autumn thanksgiving day, is one of the biggest and most celebrated holidays in the country when family members from near and far gather together to honor their ancestors. Also known as hangawi (“the great middle of the autumn”), it is a major harvest festival celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar when there is a full moon. The Chuseok holiday is also a time of the year when millions of Koreans are on the move, emptying out the capital as people head for their hometowns. This year’s Chuseok, however, may become a time of yearning for some people who cannot reunite with their loved ones as the government is strongly recommending citizens to refrain from visiting their families or relatives amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.A woman poses in front of an artificial full moon in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukThe government said the country is facing a big challenge and a crucial moment to control any possible spike in infections during the five-day Chuseok holiday which starts Sept. 30. Access to cemeteries will be restricted and highway toll fees will be collected this year over fears of new virus outbreaks during the mass migration. For residents of Seoul who have decided to stay in the city instead of traveling to their hometowns to hold ancestral memorial rites during the nation’s biggest holiday, Seongdong-gu has prepared a special event. A glowing installation of the full moon was erected in Salgoji Sports Park along Cheonggye Stream last week where visitors can make “wishes upon the moon.” With a diameter of 12 meters, the artificial moon installation will brighten up the autumn night along with 21 smaller moons. A man takes photographs of the full moon installation in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukSymbolizing a message of hope in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, the artificial moon will bring people who are exhausted both emotionally and physically together to comfort each other, and renew their will to overcome this virus-driven crisis, the district officials said.A drive-in movie theater will also be opened in Salgoji Park along with the moon installations where visitors can enjoy moonlit movies while abiding by social distancing guidelines. 
    People exercise near a glowing full moon installation in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukBy Bae Eun-jooChuseok, Korea’s autumn thanksgiving day, is one of the biggest and most celebrated holidays in the country when family members from near and far gather together to honor their ancestors. Also known as hangawi (“the great middle of the autumn”), it is a major harvest festival celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar when there is a full moon. The Chuseok holiday is also a time of the year when millions of Koreans are on the move, emptying out the capital as people head for their hometowns. This year’s Chuseok, however, may become a time of yearning for some people who cannot reunite with their loved ones as the government is strongly recommending citizens to refrain from visiting their families or relatives amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.A woman poses in front of an artificial full moon in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukThe government said the country is facing a big challenge and a crucial moment to control any possible spike in infections during the five-day Chuseok holiday which starts Sept. 30. Access to cemeteries will be restricted and highway toll fees will be collected this year over fears of new virus outbreaks during the mass migration. For residents of Seoul who have decided to stay in the city instead of traveling to their hometowns to hold ancestral memorial rites during the nation’s biggest holiday, Seongdong-gu has prepared a special event. A glowing installation of the full moon was erected in Salgoji Sports Park along Cheonggye Stream last week where visitors can make “wishes upon the moon.” With a diameter of 12 meters, the artificial moon installation will brighten up the autumn night along with 21 smaller moons. A man takes photographs of the full moon installation in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukSymbolizing a message of hope in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, the artificial moon will bring people who are exhausted both emotionally and physically together to comfort each other, and renew their will to overcome this virus-driven crisis, the district officials said.A drive-in movie theater will also be opened in Salgoji Park along with the moon installations where visitors can enjoy moonlit movies while abiding by social distancing guidelines. 
  10. 'No Mask No Entry' [PHOTOS]
    In this file photograph taken on April 22, 2020, a woman in a mask walks past a mural of a hand on the side of a building in Midtown, New York City.  AFPBy Bae Eun-joo“No Smoking” is probably the most familiar and common prohibition sign that can be found across the world. Nowadays, another prohibition sign that is being spotted in many locations is “No Mask No Entry.” “No Mask No Entry” policies have become effective in every aspect of our daily life as the South Korean government made it mandatory for the first time last month to wear face masks both indoors and outdoors to help reduce transmission of COVID-19. This was a strengthened measure from four months earlier when the government had ordered that face masks must be worn on public transportation, including subways, buses and taxis, all the time.  People wearing face mask, to prevent the spread of the Covid-19, walk past a coloured wall in La Defense business district in Courbevoie, near Paris, on September 7, 2020. AFPViolators of the “No Mask No Entry” rule can be fined up to 3 million won ($2,520) and charges can be pressed, depending on the severity of the violation. Starting Nov. 13, when the revised law takes effect, anybody not wearing a face mask indoors or outdoors will be subject to a 100,000 won fine. Last month, four passengers who refused to wear face masks inside a subway train were fined 250,000 won each by the Seoul government. They became the first people to be penalized for violating a safety guideline set by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.A wedding photographer's assistant, wearing a mask for protection against the spread of coronavirus, holds lighting equipment, as a couple poses for photographs backdropped by Istanbul's iconic Maiden's Tower (Kiz Kulesi) at the Bosphorus Strait separating the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. APIn the United States, more than 30 states have instituted mask orders and local governments have launched their own penalties for violations. Miami Beach, one of the world’s most crowded and popular attractions, is handing out $50 fines for visitors not wearing face coverings, even when outdoors or socially distanced. The city’s mandate is nearly identical to an order issued by Miami-Dade County in July that comes with a $100 fine. The rules provide exceptions for children younger than two years old, individuals with respiratory problems or those involved in “strenuous physical activity.”People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk under a large screen in Tokyo, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. APStrolling down Rodeo Drive in affluent Beverly Hills, California, without a face mask can result in a $100 fine. In Compton, a first-time violator will get a warning, then a fine of $500 for a second offense. Los Angeles County, home to more than 10 million residents, shuttered around 100 businesses for failing to obey the county’s mask and social distancing orders. Yolo County fines individuals up to $500 and businesses up to $10,000 for noncompliance. Wearing of face masks must not be equated with making a political statement. It is a public health issue and a modest sacrifice everybody has to make to help the world return to the normal it knew before COVID-19 exerted itself over all of our lives. So, simply pull a mask out of your pocket and put it on. Not wearing a mask is no longer an option.
    In this file photograph taken on April 22, 2020, a woman in a mask walks past a mural of a hand on the side of a building in Midtown, New York City.  AFPBy Bae Eun-joo“No Smoking” is probably the most familiar and common prohibition sign that can be found across the world. Nowadays, another prohibition sign that is being spotted in many locations is “No Mask No Entry.” “No Mask No Entry” policies have become effective in every aspect of our daily life as the South Korean government made it mandatory for the first time last month to wear face masks both indoors and outdoors to help reduce transmission of COVID-19. This was a strengthened measure from four months earlier when the government had ordered that face masks must be worn on public transportation, including subways, buses and taxis, all the time.  People wearing face mask, to prevent the spread of the Covid-19, walk past a coloured wall in La Defense business district in Courbevoie, near Paris, on September 7, 2020. AFPViolators of the “No Mask No Entry” rule can be fined up to 3 million won ($2,520) and charges can be pressed, depending on the severity of the violation. Starting Nov. 13, when the revised law takes effect, anybody not wearing a face mask indoors or outdoors will be subject to a 100,000 won fine. Last month, four passengers who refused to wear face masks inside a subway train were fined 250,000 won each by the Seoul government. They became the first people to be penalized for violating a safety guideline set by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.A wedding photographer's assistant, wearing a mask for protection against the spread of coronavirus, holds lighting equipment, as a couple poses for photographs backdropped by Istanbul's iconic Maiden's Tower (Kiz Kulesi) at the Bosphorus Strait separating the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. APIn the United States, more than 30 states have instituted mask orders and local governments have launched their own penalties for violations. Miami Beach, one of the world’s most crowded and popular attractions, is handing out $50 fines for visitors not wearing face coverings, even when outdoors or socially distanced. The city’s mandate is nearly identical to an order issued by Miami-Dade County in July that comes with a $100 fine. The rules provide exceptions for children younger than two years old, individuals with respiratory problems or those involved in “strenuous physical activity.”People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk under a large screen in Tokyo, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. APStrolling down Rodeo Drive in affluent Beverly Hills, California, without a face mask can result in a $100 fine. In Compton, a first-time violator will get a warning, then a fine of $500 for a second offense. Los Angeles County, home to more than 10 million residents, shuttered around 100 businesses for failing to obey the county’s mask and social distancing orders. Yolo County fines individuals up to $500 and businesses up to $10,000 for noncompliance. Wearing of face masks must not be equated with making a political statement. It is a public health issue and a modest sacrifice everybody has to make to help the world return to the normal it knew before COVID-19 exerted itself over all of our lives. So, simply pull a mask out of your pocket and put it on. Not wearing a mask is no longer an option.
  11. What does home mean to you? [PHOTOS]
    A maintenance worker from an internet service provider is repairing a cable on a utility pole. Many residents have left Baeksa Village but minimum services are maintained for those remaining. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul By Bae Eun-jooWhat does home mean to you? Most people would answer it’s a place that provides safety, security and stability for them and their families. For many Koreans, the symbolic meaning of home has long been success, investment in the future and post-retirement security. Purchasing a new home and throwing a housewarming party were huge celebratory events that meant a jumpstart to accumulating wealth. That, however, is all changing. These days, owning a home is regarded as synonymous with being in debt up to one’s eyeballs. A red circle is sprayed on the wall of a house whose residents have moved out. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukApartment prices in Seoul have skyrocketed by 56.6 percent over the past three years despite the government’s numerous measures to curb soaring housing prices focused on punitive taxation and regulations on loans. But all is to no avail as nowhere have property prices risen as much as in Gangnam-gu, the affluent southern Seoul district. The median apartment price in the district reached 1.6 billion in June, 91.6 percent higher than the median price across the capital. High-rise apartment buildings tower over Baeksa Village. Once a redevelopment project is completed, the area will be similarly transformed. Most current Baeksa Village residents will not be able to benefit from the redevelopment plan. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukThe Korean government announced last month that it will gradually provide a total of 360,000 housing units in Seoul by 2028 to stabilize the real estate market mainly by developing state-owned properties and promoting redevelopment and reconstruction projects. By easing restrictions on construction of residential buildings, the government would be able to pursue redevelopment projects to build 50-story apartment buildings in the greater Seoul area, far higher than the existing 35-story height restriction.Tightened mortgage rules, tougher capital gains tax and other taxes on property ownership to rein in speculative investments aimed at tackling soaring home prices have now become big hurdles for home buyers of median income. Home purchasers complain of tighter mortgage rules that prevent them from borrowing more than 40 percent of a Seoul property’s price. The maximum loan-to-value ratio falls to 20 percent for homes valued at 900 million won ($750,000) or more. And once you become a homeowner, you are subject to heavy taxes, especially if you own multiple properties. The government passed a bill recently to impose a property tax of up to 6 percent on multiple homeowners, a whopping increase from pervious 3.2 percent, and a 72 percent tax on profits from properties sold within one year of purchase. Street cats have overtaken the empty shantytown. They are likely to lose their territory with the launch of a redevelopment project. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukAccording to the Bank of Korea, property accounted for 76 percent of an average household’s estimated assets of 463 million won in 2019. Many young people seem to have given up on the idea of ever owning a home of their own and have rather started to view “home” as a temporary shelter for a reasonable cost. Unlike the established generation who tie their lifetime achievements to owning a permanent home, the younger generations opt to satisfy themselves through gourmet foods, luxury clothing and other small gratifications which are comparatively cheaper than home ownership. A recent poll shows that over 60 percent of people in their 20s and 30s said that owning a home is unnecessary. Recently, Seoul City announced a redevelopment plan for Baeksa Village, a small cluster of ramshackle homes located on the hillside of Mount Buram in northern Seoul. Baeksa Village is one of Seoul’s last remaining “moon villages,” a term for refugee settlements built high up on mountain slopes. The inhabitants were forcefully evicted from more central areas in the 1960s and relocated to the village.Residents have to walk up and down steep slopes since the alleyways are too narrow for shuttle buses. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulAs soon as news of the redevelopment plan spread, a real estate craze took hold of the neighborhood. Over 50 percent of the villagers have already relocated. Many of the homes are now empty, while the remaining inhabitants are almost all elderly people who rely on coal briquettes in the winter for heating.The Seoul city plans to demolish the village by 2024 and over 2,400 high-rise apartment units are expected to be erected in their place. Concerns are rising that this moon village should be renovated without any drastic changes to the original landscape by conserving the topography of the site and maintaining the inhabitants’ customs, community and culture.
    A maintenance worker from an internet service provider is repairing a cable on a utility pole. Many residents have left Baeksa Village but minimum services are maintained for those remaining. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul By Bae Eun-jooWhat does home mean to you? Most people would answer it’s a place that provides safety, security and stability for them and their families. For many Koreans, the symbolic meaning of home has long been success, investment in the future and post-retirement security. Purchasing a new home and throwing a housewarming party were huge celebratory events that meant a jumpstart to accumulating wealth. That, however, is all changing. These days, owning a home is regarded as synonymous with being in debt up to one’s eyeballs. A red circle is sprayed on the wall of a house whose residents have moved out. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukApartment prices in Seoul have skyrocketed by 56.6 percent over the past three years despite the government’s numerous measures to curb soaring housing prices focused on punitive taxation and regulations on loans. But all is to no avail as nowhere have property prices risen as much as in Gangnam-gu, the affluent southern Seoul district. The median apartment price in the district reached 1.6 billion in June, 91.6 percent higher than the median price across the capital. High-rise apartment buildings tower over Baeksa Village. Once a redevelopment project is completed, the area will be similarly transformed. Most current Baeksa Village residents will not be able to benefit from the redevelopment plan. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukThe Korean government announced last month that it will gradually provide a total of 360,000 housing units in Seoul by 2028 to stabilize the real estate market mainly by developing state-owned properties and promoting redevelopment and reconstruction projects. By easing restrictions on construction of residential buildings, the government would be able to pursue redevelopment projects to build 50-story apartment buildings in the greater Seoul area, far higher than the existing 35-story height restriction.Tightened mortgage rules, tougher capital gains tax and other taxes on property ownership to rein in speculative investments aimed at tackling soaring home prices have now become big hurdles for home buyers of median income. Home purchasers complain of tighter mortgage rules that prevent them from borrowing more than 40 percent of a Seoul property’s price. The maximum loan-to-value ratio falls to 20 percent for homes valued at 900 million won ($750,000) or more. And once you become a homeowner, you are subject to heavy taxes, especially if you own multiple properties. The government passed a bill recently to impose a property tax of up to 6 percent on multiple homeowners, a whopping increase from pervious 3.2 percent, and a 72 percent tax on profits from properties sold within one year of purchase. Street cats have overtaken the empty shantytown. They are likely to lose their territory with the launch of a redevelopment project. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-sukAccording to the Bank of Korea, property accounted for 76 percent of an average household’s estimated assets of 463 million won in 2019. Many young people seem to have given up on the idea of ever owning a home of their own and have rather started to view “home” as a temporary shelter for a reasonable cost. Unlike the established generation who tie their lifetime achievements to owning a permanent home, the younger generations opt to satisfy themselves through gourmet foods, luxury clothing and other small gratifications which are comparatively cheaper than home ownership. A recent poll shows that over 60 percent of people in their 20s and 30s said that owning a home is unnecessary. Recently, Seoul City announced a redevelopment plan for Baeksa Village, a small cluster of ramshackle homes located on the hillside of Mount Buram in northern Seoul. Baeksa Village is one of Seoul’s last remaining “moon villages,” a term for refugee settlements built high up on mountain slopes. The inhabitants were forcefully evicted from more central areas in the 1960s and relocated to the village.Residents have to walk up and down steep slopes since the alleyways are too narrow for shuttle buses. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chulAs soon as news of the redevelopment plan spread, a real estate craze took hold of the neighborhood. Over 50 percent of the villagers have already relocated. Many of the homes are now empty, while the remaining inhabitants are almost all elderly people who rely on coal briquettes in the winter for heating.The Seoul city plans to demolish the village by 2024 and over 2,400 high-rise apartment units are expected to be erected in their place. Concerns are rising that this moon village should be renovated without any drastic changes to the original landscape by conserving the topography of the site and maintaining the inhabitants’ customs, community and culture.
footer