Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - The government of South Korea, led by the new President Park Geun-hye, of the Conservative Party Saenuri, is preparing to introduce, in the new tax law, which will be enacted at the end of January, the taxation on income and the revenues obtained by the different religious communities and their representatives.
The possibility of imposing taxes to religious leaders (especially Christian priests and Buddhist monks), who so far have benefitted from a tax exemption regime, was already ventilated by the previous government. In South Korea, religious men are considered to be tax-exempt as they carry out "a spiritual service." As sources of Fides note, there are Protestant and Evangelical churches in Korea which have become real businesses, managing media, shopping, real estate, equity investments.
Taxation, observers say, could help to improve the transparency and credibility in the financial management of religious foundations. In addition, "the tax on religion" could be a symbolic gesture to support the principle of equality and fairness. According to a recent survey conducted by the "Korean Institute for Religious Freedom," out of 1,000 peole interviewed, 65% said they were in favor of applying the tax to religious groups.
In a recent seminar, the "National Council of Churches in Korea", which represents Protestant churches with 21 thousand communities and more than 6.4 million followers, discussed the issue, stating that a system of taxation could help the churches to maintain transparency, resulting in major trust by the public. While some religious leaders have expressed reluctance, other representatives of the Catholic and Protestant Church and the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist group in the country, said they are willing to "honor their tax obligations." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/01/2013)