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Seoul, May 4 – Free admission to 65 Buddhist temples that own or manage state-designated cultural properties across South Korea began on Thursday.
This was made possible as a revised law requiring the state to compensate such civilian organisations for the admission fees that they waive for visitors came into force that day.
Before the revision, all visitors had to pay fees ranging from 1,000 won ($0.70) to 5,000 won per person to enter Buddhist temples with Korean cultural properties.
With the enforcement of the revised Cultural Heritage Protection Act, 65 temples affiliated with the Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist sect, can be visited for free, marking the first time in about 61 years that admission fees have been exempted in those temples.
Since the introduction of the Cultural Heritage Protection Act in 1962, Buddhist temples in Korea have been allowed to charge admission fees to visitors.
However, the practice has long been a source of controversy, with the temples arguing it is necessary to fund the preservation and management of the country’s cultural assets, while others see it as an unfair burden on climbers who simply pass through the temples on their way to the nearby mountains.
To address these concerns, the central government has allocated 41.9 billion won for the remainder of this year to make up for the temples’ loss of revenue.
But temples that own or manage cultural properties designated by cities or provinces will be allowed to continue charging admission fees.