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Mayor's Hope Journal

  • Rain Water Tax – Surprise?
    [Mayor Park Won Soon’s Administrative Journal 28]

  • Mayor's Hope Journal SMG 1624

    “Weren’t you surprised at the Rain Water Tax?”

    Dear citizens, how was your day? Have you had the chance to look up? The sky was truly beautiful, so high, wide, and peaceful. I tried hard to keep myself from going out into the open, and I know that you felt the same. I am also told that tonight, we can observe the “blue moon”, this month being gifted with two full moons. Today is truly an enjoyable one – with chances to appreciate the sky, the breeze, and the full moon.

    But weren’t you surprised yesterday and today, that a tax has been named after a beautiful thing of nature? I’m talking about the “Rain Water Tax.”

    The word “tax” usually makes us feel chagrined. And why are they taxing “rain water?” You may say why you would be liable for rain water from the sky… So, I chose to write a few words about this.

    First of all, “Rain Water Tax” has been mis-named. The term, “Rain Water Tax” originated from Germany. But we, at the City of Seoul, while discussing ways we can manage rain water efficiently by planning precise categories of sewerage charges, “borrowed” the term. I sincerely apologize if the name has confused the citizens.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government does not have the right to assess and collect new taxes from our citizens in the first place. That right belongs to the central government and the national assembly. If there are no regulations written in the laws, the Government cannot determine what is taxable and to assess such a tax. It is impossible for the City to arbitrarily determine this new tax called “Rain Water Tax.” The reason why the Government started the discussion was merely to start reviewing the opinions of our experts pointing to the possible need to improve the present sewerage charge scheme.

    Currently Seoul’s sewerage charges are divided into waste water and rain water management fees. So we started discussing this issue of divided costs. Why go through the trouble of separating the charges?

    It is because of the long-term necessity that our City of Seoul must become a “City of Water Circulation”. Currently, 50% of the City, due to extremely rapid urbanization, has no outlets for the water, meaning that our City has become a huge tube that could hold rain water. Hence, the problems with underground water, as well as having no choice but to send the rain water together with waste water to the river. We simply cannot at this time utilize the clean rain water, a valuable resource. What’s more, because rainwater does not get absorbed into the ground, sudden heavy rain caused by extreme climate changes can cause great damage in mere moments. To solve these problems fundamentally, the City must have a circulation system. That’s why we are planning to change our City into a “City of Water Circulation”.

    Should we call it the “Rain Water Fee”? (below) “Rain Water Fee” is not a new tax. It merely means that the existing tax will be divided. This way, we can prepare the funds, although small, for the management of rain water. Our citizens will also be reminded upon reading the bill how precious is the resource that we call rain water. Through this, I am expecting to be sharing our vision of Seoul – City of Water Circulation with my fellow citizens. The “Rain Water Tax” is “in discussion” with these goals in mind.

    Of course, there are many details that we have to look at concerning the “Rain Water Tax”. I can honestly tell you that the sewerage charges take care of 38% of actual waste management costs. This must also be reviewed. By the way, since the “Rain Water Fees” are assessed relative to the area of the land that has no outlets, making larger parcels, such as large public facilities and large private lands owned by government agencies or individuals. We are looking at this from many different directions. It is also imperative that a realistic and exacting research on the need for new or amended laws and specific plan of implementation be done before adopting the “Rain Water Fees”. Of course, we also need to talk with the central government and the national assembly. The City of Seoul has only started the discussions on the subject.

    Dear citizens, many cities overseas, including those nearby in Japan, have large and small underflow facilities. Households, and each of them, have well-designed equipment that catches the rain water and turn it into usable water. Larger public facilities, school grounds, and underground facilities turn into reserves for the underflow. This is not all. Even streets and roadside trees, are planned beforehand in a way water can be held. This is how damages from rain water can be prevented as well as using it as a resource. Wouldn’t the ample underground water also benefit our environment too? I am just giving you a rough picture.

    Dear citizens, please do not misunderstand. There is no new tax. Let us gather our strengths in making Seoul our proud environment-friendly capital and a “Water Circulation City” where countless natural resources, true blessings from nature, can be used. We will of course publicize all the results of the discussions on the “Rain Water Fee” and the setting of the policies. We will also be providing specific ways with which the citizens can participate in the process. Today, there was a meeting of our staff and several experts in the field. We will take this matter step by step. Dear citizens, I, the mayor and all the employees of Seoul will do our best, so we may be able to give you the gift of trust, the real genuine assets that are absolutely needed in our society. Have a great autumn night, and go enjoy the moon! Thank you.