[EDITORIAL] Stop Playing With Retirement AgeThe Grand National Party and the United Liberal Democrats are pushing for the extension of teachers' retirement age. The GNP and the ULD have submitted two separate revisions to the Public Officials for Education Act, with the GNP lifting the age to 65 and the ULD to 63 from the current retirement age of 62. It is highly likely that the age will be increased to at least 63 and that the amendment will pass in the ongoing extraordinary session, given the combined majority of the two parties.
It has been only two years since the implementation of the current bill, which lowered teacher's retirement age from 65 to 62. In early 1999, the reduction of the retirement age presented itself as a social issue in the midst of teachers' vehement complaints. Yet, the revision was made possible in the name of education reform, and there is no denying that the absolute support of parents provided a firm base.
According to the Korean Federation of Teachers' Association, since 1999, some 28,000 educators left their workplaces nationwide, either on regular retirement or early retirement. With teachers quitting in droves, shortages in many places caused many side effects. There was even a case in which 7,700, or almost half of the former elementary school teachers on early retirement, were rehired for certain periods on a contract basis. The morale of older teachers plummeted and the preparation for retirement funds strained shaky education revenues.
Nevertheless, it bucks the trend of the era if teachers' retirement age is extended at this point. For starters, there is the question of fairness for already retired teachers, and the extension will not solve the side effects that we have experienced so far. In addition, if a nation's major policy vacillates in only two years after its implementation, it is problematic in terms of consistency and confidence in policy. What is most important, a majority of people in this society, including parents and students, call for changes in the makeup of teachers. Beyond the numeric, physical conditions of 62 or 65, the demand of the times calls for a smooth inflow and outflow of teachers. The political parties should refrain from approaching the nation's crucial long-term plan with a shortsighted political vision, paying too much attention to gaining votes.