중앙데일리

Balance is important

Dec 26,2019
SHIN SUNG-SIK
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The owner of a mart showed kindness when a hungry man in his 30s and his son shoplifted at his store. A policeman released them with just a warning and treated them with meals. Then, a philanthropist gave 200,000 won ($172) to the poor father and son, and left. The story of a Jean Valjean in Incheon allowed me to taste humanity. The philanthropist refused an interview.

It was a rare story of benevolence. The 34-year-old father quit driving his taxi six months ago. He was suffering from a thyroid condition and diabetes. As he does not have any income, he receives 1.5 million won in maximum living subsidies and housing pay, 100,000 won for child subsidies, and other medical and education support. President Moon Jae-in asked to see if the welfare system could help more, but field officials say there is nothing more that can be done.

The Korean Jean Valjean laughs at the 11th largest economy in the world. The policeman said that after paying rent, communication charges and utility fees, he is left with no money to buy books for the children. When he was caught stealing, he asked to be forgiven. He may have been tempted to steal milk and apples because his sons, 7 and 12, and old mother skipped a meal. Recently, a North Korean defector mother and her son also died of starvation.

Does Korea spend less on welfare? The size is only half of what developed countries spend, but it actually grew 2.2 times from 81 trillion won to 181 trillion won in 10 years. For every election, the welfare budget is rising like bets in a poker game. Universal welfare from Northern Europe has been imported and dressed as free welfare as seen in free childcare, school meals, education and school uniforms. Various subsidies are offered to children, elderly, farmers and fishers and the youth. Recently, the Ministry of Welfare invited Swedish scholar Joakim Palme to promote the values of universal welfare.

The head of “Welfare State Created by Me” said that the average rate of increase for basic living subsidies recipients in the first three years of the Moon Jae-in administration was 2.06 percent, lower than 3.38 percent in the Park Geun-hye administration. Until now, we cared less about the extremely poor while pursuing the rainbow of universal welfare. I don’t mean to say that selective welfare for the low income class is needed. Balance is important. The bigger problem is the 900,000 people who are poor yet are not eligible for subsidies just because they have children. Korea has the highest senior poverty and suicide rate in the world. Resources should be more focused on the poor. In particular, 200,000 senior citizens, who still are not eligible for welfare, need more attention.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 24, Page



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