[FOUNTAIN]Housing for the birds?Bowerbirds, which live in Australia, have a unique way of building a bower. A bower is a chamber, dwelling or retreat.
The male decorates the bower in order to seduce the female, which picks a mate based on the bower.
Bowerbirds do not go out of their proper sphere when they decorate their bowers. A bowerbird is not allowed to make the bower more splendid and ornate than his position in the strictly defined social hierarchy. If a bird makes a bower flashier than that of a higher-ranked bird, other birds will fly in and destroy the bower. All the ornaments will be taken away as well.
Humans are not much different from bowerbirds, because people should know their status when it comes to a house. In the old days, only the king could live in a house with more than 99 rooms.
In the Joseon period, the house of a prince was limited to 60 rooms, and other members of the royal family could have no more than 50 rooms. A government official known as the “Flat Officer” was in charge of finding a house that was bigger than the standard and cutting off the columns.
The late President Park Chung Hee strictly controlled the luxury houses of high-ranking officials.
He even had a businessman with a fancy mansion arrested. Even if a businessman paid all the taxes, he could still be charged for monopolizing a large plot of land that could have accommodated more houses and for making other people feel deprived.
Today, a housing unit whose market price is more than 600 million won is categorized as an “expensive house.”
If we look at apartments, one of five people in Seoul, and one in 10 people in the capital region, live in an “expensive house”.
A 700 square-foot apartment in the Gangnam area falls into the category of “expensive house.”
It is not even large enough to accommodate parents, so it can hardly be a target of the “Flat Officer.” However, the owner has to pay more than 10 million won a year in taxes.
If the owner has to sell the house and move, he will have to pay a large tax and have to find a smaller, less expensive place. It is as if the king bowerbird pecks at a less prosperous bird for living in the posh area of Gangnam when he is only an average salaried worker.
At a recent Kwanhun Club symposium, Uri Party leader Kim Geun-tae said that he would not ignore the plight of people who own one house for a long time, then have to move to a smaller house. He once challenged the party leadership. Let’s see what he can do.
by Kim Jin-kook
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.