Which organization uses that imposing and resolute slogan? That’s the slogan of Squad 38, which collects unpaid taxes for Seoul. The number 38 came from Article 38 of the Constitution, which prescribes citizen’s obligation to pay tax as follows: ‘All citizens are charged with the duty to pay tax under the law.’ In order to help our citizens to comply faithfully with this basic ‘duty,’ Squad 38 has collected over 400 billion won in back taxes in the last nine years.
As Seoul’s mayor, I couldn’t help but feel the desire to meet these great people. On the 8th, I had dinner with Squad 38 at the Sodam cafeteria. ‘Sodam’ serves a food course menu on a tray, but you can also enjoy a dinner on a small portable dining table at a little extra cost. Of course, the ‘tray dinner’ is also delicious. – What surprised me was that there were a lot of female employees. And they were very energetic. Above all else, Squad 38 displays amazing teamwork. Regardless of their position, everyone cared for each other.
In addition to the food course, we shared some makgeolli and had a deep conversation. It was clear that the system and the law have limitation where supporting Squad 38 is concerned. They were struggling with their overwhelming workload. But no one ever said, ‘I’m suffering the most here.’ Everyone pointed to another person or team leader or department head to tell me that here was the person who was struggling most. I can still clearly remember the department head suggesting solutions to improve safety for female employees working in the field. They told me that although there are people who deliberately avoid paying taxes, there are also those who cannot afford to pay due to legitimate reasons such as business failure. When they meet such people in need, the employees of Squad 38 do not hesitate to offer them guidance on the various types of administrative support. This truly moved me. At the front line of administration, they were caring for the citizens and helping Seoul to maintain its structure at the same time. I can imagine the difficulty of their task.
Of course, I don’t only remember Squad 38 because of the special gift I received from them. When I was preparing to leave after dinner, the personnel of Squad 38 gave me a bottle of wine as a gift, with the amount of Seoul’s back taxes written on the bottle. When they gave me the gift, they also said ‘We follow until the end and collect without fail.’ I was truly amazed and grateful to receive the gift, but I also felt uneasy at the same time. I knew how much they were struggling with their work.
So, one again, thank you Squad 38. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your work as the representative of Seoul’s citizens. Oh, but that doesn’t mean other squads should feel left out. You know, I know everything. I knew before I became the mayor, but it became all too clear to me when I observed you closely in the office for six months. I know very well that everyone works extremely hard and that they will continue to do so. Thank you. Each one of you deserves a personal visit and my undying gratitude. I know I will not be able to do it, but that’s how I feel. Stay healthy during in-between seasons, and please do your best. Thank you. Go squad 38! ‘‘Follow until the end and collect without fail!’