Destination: National Tax Museum (downtown Seoul)

Now that the end of the world has come and gone, the same two things in the world are certain: death and taxes. The first won’t be happening for many decades from now, but the latter is a reality we all have to live with. We decided to check out the Tax Museum to learn a few things about how things are done here in Korea.

It’s from the very beginning that it’s clear someone’s been drinking the kool-aid. Perhaps taxes have generated the money necessary to build the country, but the propaganda gets better.

As with most museums, they start with the traditional exhibits – an abacus, old ID’s, tax books, publications, and plenty of accounting books. Fun times.

In case you’ve wanted to know where your tax won goes. Where you see 조, that represents 1,000,000,000,000 Korean won (about 940 million dollars) – and 45 of those are spent on education, for example.

Keeping the books used to mean literally writing in books… That double accounting system makes more sense this way, maybe…

Horse tags – 마패 (ma-pae). A person with one of these tags could borrow someone’s horse on official business during the Joseon Dynasty.

There’s a disturbingly large amount of information about Joseon Dynatsy taxes here – the tables involve taxation based on six levels of soil fertility and nine levels of harvest.

Oh, dear.

Who needs money? They paid taxes in 1640 with rice (쌀) and beans (콩) – and were carefully counted from the various provinces – yes, apparently, they did have bean counters even centuries ago.

Yep. It’s official – you’re a valuable and beautiful-minded citizen – but only if you pay your taxes.

It’s borderline silly and short – really, it’s basically two rooms that takes about 20 minutes to see. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it a museum, but it’s an interesting diversion or timekiller.

Name: National Tax Museum (조세박물관)
Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu, Su-song-dong 104
Korean address: 서울특별시 종로구 수송동 104
Directions: It’s about the same distance from Gwanghwamun station (line 5, exit 2) and Anguk station (line 3, exit 6). From Gwanghwamun station, walk 200 meters, pass the US Embassy and the history museum, then turn right. Walk straight through the first intersection, then look for the Tax Office in-between the fork of the next intersection.

From Anguk station, walk straight for about 300 meters, turning left just before the Starbucks. Walk 200 meters to the three-way intersection and look left.

Hours: 9:00am-6:00pm (Monday-Friday), 9:00am-3:00pm (Saturdays) – closed Sundays and national holidays.

Admission: free
Phone: 02-397-1635
Website: http://www.nts.go.kr/museum