Unregistered cars target of new gov’t measures

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Unregistered cars target of new gov’t measures

In April last year, a group of criminals was caught stealing 170 million won ($157,000) worth of construction materials from highway construction sites.

Then, a man in his 30s was arrested for robbing empty houses after he was released from prison in November last year by police in Changwon, South Gyeongsang. The suspects had one thing in common.

They both used cars that were registered under borrowed names in order to hide their identities.

To combat this trend, in a press briefing held at City Hall on Tuesday, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said it will consider those cars that have not taken out mandatory insurance or received regular inspections as cars registered under borrowed names, starting April 1.

The government said it will use 20 cars with CCTV cameras and computers to check license plates and an additional 54 servants will use cameras on smartphones to check cars.

If they find the car has outstanding insurance bills or not completed a regular inspection, they will remove the license plate.

If the license plate is removed, the car owner must contact a local police station or government office and prove ownership of the vehicle before the license plate is returned.

The car owner then receives a ticket that they must comply with the law within a certain amount of time.

The municipal government said about 970,000 cars, or 5 percent of the country’s cars, are registered under borrowed names and about 180,000 of them are in Seoul.

Those cars are often sold online among people who do not want to pay monthly car ownership taxes.

Last year, a group of people in Incheon who sold about 1 billion won worth of cars registered under borrowed names online was arrested by police.

Currently, it’s not against the law to drive a car registered to someone else, making it difficult to punish drivers just for driving a car that is registered under someone else’s name.

Though police sometimes catch those drivers, they cannot punish them because they don’t have the legal basis to arrest them if they give an excuse like, “I’m just taking care of my friend’s car temporarily because the friend is out of the country.”

The city government decided to carry out stronger actions.

It said it will consider a car as a car registered under a borrowed name if it meets one of four conditions: the owner hasn’t paid car insurance for six months or longer; the owner has failed to have the car inspected within four years after purchase and failed to have it inspected every two years; the owner has failed to pay their automobile taxes for more than six months; or the car has changed owners more than 50 times.

The city government will also remove the license plates of cars that have more than 300,000 won in outstanding violations in illegal parking and driving in bus-only lanes from the second half of the year.

But some think that the standards that the city government has set for cars registered under borrowed names might consider normal people or people who aren’t able to pay taxes or insurance fees due to poor economic conditions as potential criminals.

“Once, I did not pay my 1 million won in fines that accumulated over a long time due to my busy work schedule,” said Lee Jong-won, a Seoul resident. “They might take my car’s license plate even though my car is a normal one.”

“We will let citizens know about the policy over the next month and also inform those people who have not paid their penalties,” said Baek Ho, the director of the Transportation Policy Division.

By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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