Plethora of rule changes in second half

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Plethora of rule changes in second half

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There will be noticeable changes in the second half of this year in five sectors including taxation, finance, welfare, safety and national defense. For example, employees will be able to decide on their monthly tax withholdings and how much or how little of a tax refund they want.

Monthly electric charges for 6.47 million households will be temporarily cut from July through September by an average of 8,368 won ($7.44). Benefits of private medical insurance will decrease from September and deductibles will increase. CCTV installment in all day care centers across the nation will be mandatory starting Sept. 19. Reception-only mobile phones provided to all military barracks by the end of the year will enable parents whose children are in the services to more easily reach them. More changes are listed below.

[Health and Welfare & Employment]
Tax withheld from monthly paycheck can be adjusted from now on;

An employee-customized withholding system is being introduced in the wake of the controversy over bigger tax bills earlier this year. Employees can choose one of the three tax withholding options: withholding 100 percent of estimated tax, 80 percent or 120 percent. In case of 80 percent, year-end tax refunds will disappear and a person’s tax bill will increase. If 120 percent is paid, the refund will be assured.

A stimulus package for direct buying from overseas on online malls is being initiated. The duty-free limit is heightened to $150 from $120. Domestic-only credit cards can be used to make payments for overseas shopping as electronic payment settlement agencies are allowed to do foreign exchange transactions. Before, only credit cards affiliated with global credit cards such as Visa and Master could be used. Chinese customers, who had to use Alipay to shop at Korean online shopping malls, also will be able to do online shopping more freely on Korean shopping malls with Korean payment settlement systems.

Custom tariffs for European compact cars with engine displacements of less than 1.5 liters and hybrid cars are being cut to 1.3 percent from 2.6 percent. Tariffs on European trucks are also being cut to 1.6 percent from 3.3 percent. The tariff reductions are according to the Korea-Europe FTA that came into effect five years ago.

Electric charges for households will be temporarily cut from July through September. Monthly electricity bills for 6.47 million four-person households are expected to decrease by 8,368 won, or 14 percent, to 51,451 on average. Installment payments for electricity bills, paying the bills for the summer season (July-September) and winter season (December-February) in a maximum of six months of installments come into effect next month.

[Finance & Securities]
Deductibles for private medical insurance are

Deductibles for private medical insurance will increase. Subscribers had to pay 10 percent of medical expanses of uncovered items before, but they will pay 20 percent starting in September. Deductibles for covered items are unchanged. For example, if medical treatment costs 1 million won (300,000 won covered and 700,000 won uncovered), a subscriber had to pay 100,000 won (30,000 won covered and 70,000 won uncovered) before. Starting in September, he will pay 170,000 won (30,000 won covered and 140,000 won uncovered).

Financial support for vulnerable social groups will be strengthened. Customers of loans for low income groups, such as the Sunshine loan and Hope Spore Loan, who have made principal and interest payments for a year will be able to re-borrow up to 5 million won at the same interest rate. Borrowers who made payments for two years after receiving loans from the National Happiness Fund and Credit Counseling & Recovery Service can get credit cards. But credit card use, with a 500,000 won limit, is restricted to purchases and not cash advances.

Information disclosures to compare financial products will be expanded. Insurance companies’ early repayment charge systems for housing and credit loans will be disclosed in July and those of banks, card and finance companies later. Customers will be able to choose the most favorable product after comparing.

Investing with insider information can now be punished. Before, when insider information was spread, only the company employee or securities company worker who disseminated it could be punished. However, from the second half of the year, people who use insider information to invest can be fined, too. Retail investors can be fined if they invest with information learned from online.

[County & Environment & Agri-Food]
Drivers will be blamed more for accident while watching DMB content

The quality management for drinking water is being beefed up. Uranium is being added to the water quality standard list and production of drinking water above the allowance is prohibited. Manufacturers must mark the detailed addresses of water sources (street names and building addresses) to let customers choose products after checking correct information.

There will be a crackdown on fake eco-friendly products. False or deceptive advertisements that give customers false information are prohibited starting Sept. 25. Companies can be fined 3 million won.

The percentage of fault for drivers involved in car accidents while watching digital media broadcasting (DMB) and within 10 meters (33 feet) of crosswalks will be raised by 10 percent to 80 percent, the same as for using mobile phones. This is due to the consideration that drivers’ blame for accidents while watching DMB near crosswalks is as great as while using mobile phones.

Trucks weighing more than 4.5 tons will be able to use High-pass roads. They were only allowed to use general tollgates due to overload checks before, but now High-pass roads have been fixed with weighing devices and widened.

Restrictions of building and extension of factories in areas under management plans are to be eased. Systematic development plans considering the environment can only be done in areas under management plans. Factories making organic cosmetics and natural soap can be set up in the areas. Other industries can also be set up should the manufacturing process involve less environmental damage.

The sale of mixed domestic and imported grains of are banned from July 7 following the revised Grain Management Act. It is to counter the rice tariffication effect.

[National Defense & Safety & Administration]
Every barrack will have a mobile phone for parents to call their sons;

Restricted mobile phones will be provided to all military barracks by the end of the year for the sake of parents and their children in the services. Parents will be able to talk to their sons more often. The Ministry of National Defense plans to supply 44,686 reception-only mobile phones to all military barracks by the end of the year, which one mobile per barracks.

After a reservist went on a fatal shooting rampage in May, firing exercises are being revised. Safety frames that fix firearms will be standardized and a safety hook will be managed by a controller with a smart key, keeping reservists from doing anything wrong with the weapons.

Starting August, an 8-centimeter-wide and 5.3-centimeters-long (3-by-2-inch) national flag mark will be added to combat uniforms for all soldiers. The detachable flag can be attached below the right shoulder or on the arm pocket cover.

A campground registration system will be introduced after fires at campgrounds became an issue. Existing campground owners should complete registrations by Aug. 3. Safety and sanitary standards for campgrounds come into effect from Aug. 4 as part of enforcement regulations of the Tourism Promotion Act.

Concert hall safety management will be strengthened. Current law requires only halls with more than 50 seats or space larger than 50 square meters (538 square feet) to register. Starting November, all concert halls in the nation must register.

Opening up of the civil service is being accelerated. Positions for people with private sector careers will be introduced. The newly revised system entitles people without public sector experience to apply for the positions, which wasn’t possible under the former policy.

[Health and Welfare & Employment]
Day care centers will be forced to install security cameras for kids’ safety

After a case of child abuse at a day care center in Incheon, CCTVs will be installed in all day care centers starting Sept. 19. Directors of day care centers must preserve the video recorded for more than 60 days. Already operating centers have three extra months to comply.

Health insurance coverage for dentures and implants will be extended to 70-year-olds from the current 75. With the revision, people born before July 1, 1945, can benefit when getting dentures and implants.

Starting from July 29, partial receipt (50-90 percent) of old-age pensions can be postponed. Before, only full receipt of pensions could be delayed. Old-age pensions are provided to those 60 and older who subscribed to the national pension system and have paid over a certain time frame. The criteria for earning activity-based pension reduction, which used to be reduced by age, is changed to be cut by income level.

Overdue wages can be paid by the government up to 3 million won even if a business owner went bankrupt.

Married couples suffering from fertility problems will be provided with psychological and medical counseling starting this month. The deductible of hospital fees will be lowered to 10 percent from 20 percent for pregnant women aged 35 or older. Newly initiated unemployment credit policy supports 75 percent of the national insurance premium - up to 50,000 won - for a maximum of one year.

Employees under 18 will be automatically subscribed to national pensions. Before, they could only do so if the employers agreed. But employees don’t need to contribute to the pension if they don’t want to.

BY LEE TAE-KYUNG, HA NAM-HYUN [kim.hyunmin@joongang.co.kr]

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