SEOUL, Jul. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — Over 50,000 houses remained uninhabited in South Korea’s rural areas last year, agricultural ministry data released by a ruling party lawmaker showed Saturday.
The number of empty rural houses was tallied at 50,801 as of August 2016, rising from 48,901 in 2014 and 48,685 in 2015, the data showed.
The rise came after vacant rural area homes had decreased from 54,126 in 2011 to 52,593 in 2012 and 48,149 in 2013.
Under the Rearrangement of Agricultural and Fishing Villages Act, farming and fishing village homes and structures that remain uninhabited and unused for over one year are defined as vacant.
The government had spent 119.6 billion won (US$106 million) from 1995 to last year on refurbishing a total of 136,758 abandoned rural houses, with an additional 11.9 billion won earmarked for this year to refit about 5,500 homes.
Despite the continued budget spending, however, the number of empty houses has not decreased nationwide, as many homeowners intentionally leave their properties abandoned in hopes of increases in asset value in the future.
“Vacant homes are growing rapidly year after year. The numbers are just too large to be counted,” said Han Yong-su, the head of Doksang Village in Hwasun in the southwestern province of South Jeolla.
“For now, our village doesn’t have any countermeasures against the problem, as increasing numbers of empty homes are abandoned.”
Lately, provincial governments are moving to build an integrated database of vacant home information.
“It will be helpful in disposing of vacant homes if the government provides comprehensive information on empty houses in rural areas to owners and aspiring buyers and renters,” said an official at the government of North Jeolla Province.
The official said his provincial government is currently leasing out repaired rural homes at half the market prices for five years.