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SEOUL – The South Korean diplomatic corps owes the United States nearly 23 times what U.S. diplomats owe officials in Seoul for unpaid parking and traffic fines.

South Korea’s Consulate General owes New York City about $17,000 in parking tickets, including $10,137 for 87 tickets issued before November 2002 and $7,120 for 47 parking tickets since, a spokesman with the city’s Department of Finance stated in an e-mail.

The Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles says the Embassy of South Korea owes $225 for unpaid parking tickets in 2007.

A spokesman with South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to comment on the issue.

The city of Seoul issued 165 tickets, worth 6,600,000 won, or about $7,197, for U.S. embassy vehicles in the last five years.

The U.S. embassy had paid all but 17 of those tickets, worth approximately $742, city officials said.

“The embassy requires its employees to pay any traffic tickets and obey all traffic and other regulations in Korea,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Max Kwak said when questioned about the outstanding tickets.

The Korea Times reported last month that 91 foreign embassies in Seoul had outstanding fines of 526 million won, or roughly $574,000. Ninety-six percent of the fines, issued between January 2002 and 2007, had not been paid. Forty-nine countries had not paid anything, and only the Vatican City State had paid all its tickets, the paper reported.

The U.S., Australian and Norwegian embassies had the lowest rates of non-payment, according to the story.

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