The Korea Herald


Chinese land-buying spree raises speculation concerns

Lawmaker urges stricter rules, citing Koreans are not allowed to own land in China

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : July 21, 2021 - 16:08

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Jeju Island (123rf) Jeju Island (123rf)

A Chinese spending spree on property and land in South Korea if left unchecked may fuel a rise in already skyrocketing housing prices, a lawmaker warned Wednesday, calling for stricter regulations on property ownership by foreign nationals.

Land bought by foreign nationals increased from an area of 190 million square meters worth 24.9 trillion won ($21.6 billion) in 2011 to 253 million square meters worth 31.4 trillion won in 2020, each 1.3 times more than what it was almost a decade ago, official data showed. The data was submitted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport at the request of Rep. Hong Seok-joon of the People Power Party.

Among the land holdings by foreign nationals, the increase in land ownership of Chinese nationals was outstanding.

The size of land owned by Chinese nationals surged from 3.6 million square meters (765 billion won in assessed land value) in 2011 to 19.9 million square meters (2.8 trillion won) in 2020, up 5.4 times in terms of land mass.

By region, Jeju Island was the most preferred location among the Chinese with 9.14 million square meters, followed by Gyeonggi Province (4.9 million square meters) and Gangwon Province (2.41 million square meters).

By price, Seoul topped the total land value at 1.14 trillion won. It was followed by Gyeonggi Province (872.7 billion won), Jeju Island (252.5 billion won) and Incheon (205.7 billion won).

In the capital regional alone, Chinese land ownership in Seoul expanded three times in size and prices went up 2.2 times from 2011 to 2020. In the case of Gyeonggi Province, the area increased 5.8 times and price by 13.3 times.

Rep. Hong said the increase in the acquisition of real estate by foreigners may have a negative impact on the local real estate market, saying it could cause apartment prices to fluctuate.

“In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore, foreigners’ property speculation is also a problem and various regulations are introduced in the countries in related to foreigners’ real estate transactions,” Rep. Hong said, calling for stricter regulations.

By purpose of acquisition by foreign nationals, the acquisition of apartments was the largest with 2.24 million square meters worth 3.6 trillion won.

In Sejong City, Chinese land ownership ballooned, increasing 54 times in terms of area and 19 times in price during the same period. Over the past five years as of the end of 2020, the city’s housing price growth rate was 45.81 percent, 8.48 percent higher than the national average.

In Gyeonggi Province, Chinese-bought land increased 5.8 times in size and 13.3 times in price. Over the past five years as of the end of 2020, the region’s housing price growth rate was 13.81 percent.

“Koreans cannot own land in China but Chinese nationals can own Korean land and it is rapidly rising. As it can be a national problem in the long run, it is necessary to limit them from a reciprocal standpoint,” Hong said.

The current law on reporting real estate transaction stipulates that any country that “prohibits or restricts the acquisition or transfer of land by Korean nationals, from a reciprocal standpoint, as prescribed by Presidential Decree, it may prohibit or restrict the acquisition or transfer of land in Korea by nationals of that country.”

However, the Korean government has not enacted a presidential decree under this clause, and no foreigners are actually subject to such restrictions.

In December, Hong proposed an amendment to real estate-related laws to exclude tax-free benefits when selling foreign-owned real estate, and to strengthen reciprocal regulations in acquiring property.