Mayor Plans to Confiscate Church and Temple Overdue Taxes

With the fiscal health of Seoul Metropolitan Government under considerable strain, Mayor Park Won-soon is reaching very deep to bring the administrative budget under control without austerity package or retrenchment policy. Park’s social-progressive stance does not allow to roll back on social or public services and he has expressed strong disinclination to increase tax or hike fees to meet the deficit-reduction target.

We have already reported on his head-on collision with the Seoul Metro Line 9 corporation over fare hike. As a result, his administration is coming up with new and creative methods of supplementing the budget. The media has reported his new plan to go after the well-known tax-havens such as religious organizations, which have long benefited from relaxed tax enforcement and numerous tax-code loop-holes.

From Daum:

This large church with 15,000-strong congregation is in arrears of $2.8million USD (280,000,000 won) of land registration tax. The head minister promised to pay back the tax but has so far broken the promise repeatedly under the pretext of ‘worsening fiscal situation.’ However, during the same time the church built the new chaplaincy worth $15 million USD (15,000,000,000 won), in addition to owning 10 private villas for the ministers.

A person close to the church explained that other priorities were in the way: ‘[H]aving to prioritize the salaries for personnel and what not, we just have not been able to pay. Once we get the bank loans for the new church building construction, we will try to pay it (overdue tax) off…’

Donation of Seoul

Several Buddhist temples are also behind on tax either due to closure or simply no way of collectiing it back. The cases of tax in arrears by religious organizations are close to one hundred with the amount in excess of $5.3 million US (5,300,000,000 won). Of those $5 million USD (5,000,000,000 won) are by Christian organizations and the other $0.2 million USD (200,000,000 won) owed by Buddhist organizations.

Over 80% of overdue tax from land registration fee

If land is purchased by religious organization for religious purpose, then land registraion fee is exexmpt. However, if the acquired land is being used for something other than religious purpose, the tax will be levied retroactively.

Mr. Gwon Hae-yoon, the head of Seoul Metropolitan tax collection department explains that ‘the tax-free status is being widely abused and when levied with tax for violation, they often resort to mass protest which makes it hard for us to enforce the collection.

Seoul Metropolitan authority is considering more stringent course of actions such as confiscating and auctioning off assets, or even confiscating weekly collections against those with large sums of overdue tax. Since religious organizations are expected to exercise higher moral standard than individual or corporate entities, Seoul Metropolitan government will specially oversee the overdue taxes of the religious organizations.

Comments from Daum:


Please don’t say this is just the few bad ones… Of course they should be punished. Plus, there are not that many churches with that large a congregation, so which one is it??? Reveal the name please~!


Gae-dok $5 million, Buddhist temple $0.2 million, but the headline makes it sound as if they were equally bad. Gae-doks probably did it on purpose and the temples were probably just poor.


If we tax the religious organizations properly… we can be in welfare heaven.. really…


How much per head for 15,000-member congregation? (when you sell churches, they price it by ‘per-head’)


We Gyeongsang-do and Gangwon-do folk love the religion of MB, Protestantism. Let us divide up this country so that Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do ought to be run by Christians.


We must tax religious organizations. It is disheartening to see these ‘religious’ folks not observing any of the national duties and just get fat off of us.


Finally it is being done… but it’s never too late, I am happy about this. They talk about selflessness but they are one greedy bunch…


Park Won-soon for president!!!!!


Gae-dok $5 million, Buddhism $0.2 million!! They are 25 times worse


People like him ought to be president in South Korea. Park Geun-hye, etc will never be able to do this. MB and Geun-hye will be too preoccupied with lining their own pockets.


Whatever religion they practice, PAY TAX!!!!!!!!! You numb nuts, I don’t care whatever you guys are up to, but PAY TAX!!!! CHANGE THE LAW!!!! MUST GET THEM TO PAY TAX!!!!


Is Park Won-soon Christian FOR REAL? Can’t believe he is same Christian as MB????


Dare to draw sword against religion…. Park Won-soon, you are a true man, better than any hero.


90% of protestant ministers are merchants.


Park Won-soon, you are amazing. You really deserve to be a president.. best!!


No mention of Catholics…. Yes, they are quite clean…


I will vote for him no matter what if he runs for president. Really goes to show the power of vote and what it means to be a real civil servant.

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  • Hawkeye4077

    The ‘churches’ that truly follow Jesus, will not be spending so much money, living in luxury and having MEGA CHURCHES. South Koreans should get to know the Holy Bible and fall in love with Jesus Christ and not your pastor. Anything that contradicts the Holy Bible must be rejected. You cannot love GOD and love money!

    • MiTaehyeop

      Which Hawkeye? The plane? The Iowans? or the Comic?

      • Hawkeye4077

        Hi. haha. A character from one of my favorite t.v shows. M*A*S*H 4077. Hawkeye Pierce. His name is from Last of the Mohiccans. :D

  • Brett Sanbon

    Paying off debt with a loan from the bank…. That’s smart

    Just tax everyone and every business equally. Korea doesnt have to be a haven for religion like America wants to be. Tax ’em and tax ’em hard.

    • achan

      yep… not sure why they get tax exemption status….. makes no sense. as far as i know the catholic church in korea pays tax actually based on their donation and land holding, etc, so no reason for other religious organisations not to follow suit.

      but who am i kidding, religion is very profitable in korea – so many schools are owned by them and they are double-tax haven because they receive state subsidy as well for their ‘public function’….

      tax is the only way forward :D

      • Bruce Tutty

        Most civilised countries in the world treat religion lightly, even when it comes to taxation. It’s not just America.

        But a church is just a building, and not a religion, so some humans will try to use them to make money.

  • Chris

    이거 바로 사회 정의다.. 서울 시장님이 진짜 대단하시네 ~

    • Brett Sanbon

      영어로 써주세요 그래야 다른 사람들도 알아보죠.

    • Justin_C

      yes please, though I have to say I am quite impressed :)

    • James

      Me too! Always good to see we have some Korean-speakers reading stuff too (and no doubt using the glossary to fine-tune their obscenities –– I know that’s what I did with chinaSMACK!).

      • Brett Sanbon

        The glossary is life saving when playing Sudden Attack ㅋㅋ

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