[SEOUL] A lengthy property market slump and low interest rates are threatening the future of a uniquely South Korean home lease system that traces its roots back to the 19th century.
Jeonse contracts have been a mainstay of the South's housing market for decades, offering tenants the enticing, and at first sight startling prospect of not actually paying rent.
Instead, the tenant forks out a hefty, up-front deposit - typically around 40 per cent of the property's value - which is then refunded in its entirety, or renewed, after two years.
At its peak in the mid-1990s, two-thirds of all housing rents and leases in South Korea were using the jeonse system.
The benefit for landlords was a large capital...