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First of August - 08/05/2020

Editors’ Note: This article contains the contents of one of the first editions of KOMMON. While we are proud of this work, you may notice that it is a different style than our current publications. In this phase of KOMMON, we were still experimenting to find what style worked the best for us. Additionally, if you were an early subscriber, you may notice that this post differs slightly from the original version; we have gone back and edited for clarity, consistency, and accuracy.

Edited by: Fred McNulty and Amal Kadir

Hello, readers! 🍀 Today, we have three issues in Korea for you.

1. Will this country be a better place for tenants?

2. Denuclearization and a manipulated report😨

3. The “lord” of a minor religious sect in Korea arrested for COVID-19 👑


Revised Bill to Curb "Jeonse" Prices

The National Assembly approved a revision to the Housing Lease Protection Act (주택임대차보호법) at a plenary session on the 29th. This law went into effect right after the 31st.

* Housing Lease Protection Act: A special law supplement to address the difficulties tenants might have due to their inferior economic status compared to the landlord.

The point of the amendment?

🍀 Tenant's right to renew contracts

The basic lease term for a housing lease was two years. After the revision, a tenant can ask for an additional two years with a contract extension. The landlord can refuse a request only if they or their family live in the same house as the tenant. If they lease the housing to another tenant within the two years and get caught, they can be sued by the tenant. Tenants who signed the contract before the law was revised can also request for a renewal of the contract.

🍀 Limiting the increase in rent to 5% of existing rent upon renewal

Each local government can set an upper limit within 5% through the ordinance. The Seoul Metropolitan Government and others are reportedly reviewing the increases in rent.

Wasn't there any objection?

The conservative Future United Party (미래통합당) did not participate in the voting for the protest of the passage. They argued that there could be various side effects. The side effects of concern that they raised are as follows:

🍀 The landlords may not be offering "Jeonse"* anymore.

Rep. Yoon Hee Sook (윤희숙) of the Future United Party (미래통합당) argued that the law will make the Jeonse (전세) quickly disappear in the market". If landlords cannot raise the rent by more than 5% when the lease has been renewed, they are likely to turn the lease to a half-Jeonse or monthly rent.

🍀 Jeonse prices could skyrocket after four years.

There is no limit for the increase if the landlord ends the existing contract after 4 years and finds a new tenant after. Tenants are relieved right now but have to worry about paying an increased amount of rent after their contract expires t. Some say that the number of possible renewal requests (only once) and the duration of the contract (2 years) is too limited.

The ruling party said that it is not easy for landlords who purchased their homes through gap investment* to come up with a deposit to return immediately, so Jeonse will not be converted to half-Jeonse or even monthly rent right away.

Let me explain difficult terms for you😉
* Jeonse (전세): lease on a deposit basis: Real estate term unique to Korea. According to Wikipedia, “Instead of paying monthly rent (월세), a renter will make a lump-sum deposit on a rental space, anywhere from 50% to 80% of the market value.”  Renters often prefer Jeonse over monthly rent since they can get the deposit back when the contract ends. There were many houses rented with Jeonse when the house price was expected to rise rapidly. However, these days most landlords do not prefer Jeonse anymore.
* Half-Jeonse (반전세): Under this contract form, a tenant will give a less amount of deposit compared to “Jeonse” but pay a moderate monthly rent to the landlord.
* Gap investment: A method of purchasing a house with a small difference between the selling price and the charter price by investing only the difference using the deposit received from the charter tenant. It is an increasingly popular method that aims for a big rise in housing prices.

🍀 "I heard there's another bill coming up?"

The Democratic Party’s (더불어민주당) push for the revision of the Three Leases Act, which would make the landlord and tenant report their contract to the city, county, and district offices. The policy’s goal is to protect tenants by making transactions transparent. This policy will be applied from June next year as it has to go through various processes.


Controversy over the Wolsung-1 Economic Evaluation

'Nuclear-free generation👪' President Moon Jae In (문재인 대통령) recently announced an early shutdown of Wolsung-1 reactor (월성 1호기) in 2019, which was supposed to be operated until 2022. Wolsung-1 is the oldest nuclear power plant in Korea. One of the main grounds for the decision was a report written by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (KHNP) in 2018, which concluded that operating Wolsung-1 is economically unfeasible. Was the report manipulated? However, questions have been raised about the authenticity of the report. A civic group against denuclearization argued that the report played down the economic feasibility of Wolsung-1. Amid the mounting controversy, a national assembly requested an inspection to the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI). BAI provisionally concluded that the report played down the economic feasibility of Wolsung-1, according to reports. However, the full results of the inspection have not passed the board. Conservative critics have charged that since the board consists of ruling party members, it will be hard for them to objectively state whether the report was tampered with.

For or Against

People who are for 👍 denuclearization argued that

1) Nuclear power plants can lead to deadly accidents such as the Chernobyl disaster.

2) Nuclear power is not cost-effective when taking all expenses into account.

People against 👎 denuclearization argued that

1) Nuclear energy still brings to Korea economic advantages inside (has been a driving force of the economic growth of Korea and created a lot of jobs) and outside (exporting the technologies to other countries like the United Arab Emirates).

2) The electric bills will likely increase once they shut down nuclear reactors.

Wanna know more about Nuclear Energy? Check these out 😄
[On Netflix] Pandora (2016)  Dark  (2020)
[On Watcha] Chernobyl (2019)


Other Stories

Responsible for 5,000 COVID-19 Infections? Shincheonji Leader Arrested👮 Lee Man Hee (이만희), the leader and founder of a minor religious sect, Shincheonji Church of Jesus (신천지), worshipped by his followers as the “Promised Pastor sent by Jesus", was arrested on August 1st. A local court in Suwon (수원) issued an arrest warrant, saying that “criminal charges are cleared and there is a risk of destruction of evidence.” Lee is charged with 1) obstructing the government's quarantine efforts during the early spread of COVID-19 in February, and 2) embezzling church funds.

👥Sincheonji: reclusive “cult” and trigger of early COVID-19 outbreak? 💣 Sincheonji Church of Jesus is a secretive Christian cult in South Korea, known for its aggressive and deceptive proselytising practices. It has produced 100,000 graduates (worshipers who graduated from the sect’s proselytization program) in South Korea by 2019. The cult is notorious for allegedly “brainwashing” and systematically monitoring its members, making it difficult to withdraw from the sect after getting in. In 2020, the group became a hot topic in the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, as they are associated with more than 5,000 infections.

😠 Two dishonourable charges of the “high lord”

1) Obstruction of Quarantine🙅 Last February, a mass infection of COVID-19 occurred among the Shincheonji members who attended services in the sect’s cathedral in Daegu (대구). Despite the risk of potentially violating followers' private information to prevent further spread of the virus, the government requested a list of the members who attended the services. However, Lee was suspected of submitting false documents to health authorities on the number of participants at the sect's gatherings and gatherings locations, thereby interfering with the government’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The number of infections related to Shincheonji soared to more than 5,000 and it provoked a nationwide outcry against the cult. 2) Embezzlement 👜 Lee is also suspected of embezzling a total of ₩5.6 billion from church funds, in the process of building a new Shincheonji training center. He is also suspected of holding religious events in public facilities from 2015 to 2019 without the approval of local governments.

“Please Save My Missing Daughter”😰

Local group National Solidarity for Shincheonji Victims has also requested for the arrest of Lee Man Hee. This organization was founded to serve the community of the victims who lost their family or friends after they entered the sect. After Lee's arrest, the National Solidarity for Shincheonji Victims said, "It will be a great comfort to parents who ran around the streets looking for their missing children, and to the 200,000 believers who are mired in religious fraud, [we] believe it will be a chance to find their own lives again.”


😁Life hacks

💎Replace damaged money with new money A few days ago, stories of people who put bills in the microwave and washing machine to prevent COVID-19 took over on the internet 💬. Editors’ Note: COVID-19 is an airborne illness. When this article was initially published, less was known about COVID-19 than today. The chance of contracting COVID-19 from touch alone is negligible. Did you know that when currency is damaged, you can exchange it for new bills at the bank or post office? If you have more than 75% of the currency, you will receive the full face value of the new currency. If you have between 40% and 75%, you can only get half of the original amount. And if less than 40% remains, it is not eligible for exchange. If the bill is burned, do not shake off the ashes! Bring it all and exchange it for new currency. 😲Watch out! Insects are coming! Bad news if you are not a huge fan of insects. South Korea is experiencing an insect population boom 💥 due to climate change. This year, you might easily come across these two … 1) Stick insects Green and brown insects with a long body that looks like a stick. They have recently been spotted over the entire mountainous area of Eunpyeong district, western Seoul. 2) Gypsy moths Beware of contact with gypsy moths as it can be detrimental to your health. The tiny hairs on their wings are known to carry toxic substances and may cause skin allergies. They can be found in Gangwon, North Chungcheong provinces, and Seoul. Editor’s Note: Since publication, the term “gypsy moth,” referring to the lymantria dispar dispar insect, has fallen into disuse. The reason for this is the term “gypsy” has long been considered to be a slur against people of Roma origin. Its contemporary common term is now the “spongy moth.”


Miscellaneous Headlines

1. On July 16, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (김정은) declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, after a defector returned from South Korea last week allegedly carrying the COVID-19 virus.👉 Link 2. South Korea will toughen the punishment for non-citizen residents who report false self-quarantine addresses when they re-enter the country after an overseas trip. 👉 Link 3. The Korean government will extend visas for foreign laborers to address the labor shortage in farming areas, caused by COVID-19 ahead of the upcoming harvest season. 👉 Link 4. The family of the recently deceased Seoul mayor, Park Won Soon (박원순), asked police to stop forensic analysis of his cellphone to figure out the truth of the death since the cause of death is “obvious.” Victim’s advocates are calling for analysis to be resumed. 👉 Link 5. Professional soccer stadiums are opening their doors for visitors from August 1. Only 10 percent of all seats will be used and spectators should follow the given health instructions.👉 Link



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