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China's moneyed class buying up South Korea residential real estate

By
Elizabeth Shim
Chinese buyers of South Korean real estate are on the rise as Seoul tries to curb property prices. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA
Chinese buyers of South Korean real estate are on the rise as Seoul tries to curb property prices. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- More Chinese buyers are snapping up South Korean real estate, accounting for more than 60 percent of foreign real estate purchases in the country.

Hong Chul-ho, a lawmaker with Seoul's main opposition Liberty Korea Party, said Monday a recent analysis from the Korea Appraisal Board, a government agency, shows foreign purchases of South Korean real estate equaled about $11.4 billion from 2015 to September 2019, local newspaper Maeil Business reported.

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The majority of buyers are from China, or 62 percent, according to the report.

The data is being made public only two weeks after the government announced new restrictions on mortgage loans. The ban prevents domestic South Korean buyers from borrowing money when purchasing residential property valued at $1.3 million or higher.

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The new policy is targeting rising real estate prices, mostly in Seoul but also in outlying areas. Critics have said it needlessly penalizes prospective homebuyers.

On Monday, Hong said the data from Seoul's appraisal board shows domestic real estate investors are coming under scrutiny as foreigners, who pay in cash, go unexamined by local regulators.

"Present regulations do not investigate the source of foreigners' funds," Hong said. "Transparency must improve in order to prevent money laundering."

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Real estate brokerage offices are also reportedly "discriminating" against domestic buyers in favor of Chinese buyers in some neighborhoods, because of their ability to pay in cash, according to Maeil Business.

The offices are being staffed with Chinese-speaking agents, as more Chinese buyers invest in increasingly more valuable property in cities like Bucheon and Ansan in Gyeonggi Province, the report says.

Chinese nationals represent the bulk of foreign buying, followed by U.S. citizens and Japanese passport holders.

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The new government plan to stabilize the housing market was made public on Dec. 16. Its impact on bringing down skyrocketing real estate prices in 2020 is difficult to forecast, according to Newsis on Monday.

The market has cooled, but prices in high-demand areas known for their top-performing school districts in southern Seoul are holding steady, according to the report.

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