[EDITORIALS]Good Intentions Are Not Enough

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[EDITORIALS]Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Though the government says that it has steadily implemented social welfare policies, Korea's income distribution pattern has deteriorated since the 1997-98 foreign exchange crisis. According to the Korea Institute of Public Finance, Korea's income gap recently widened and could widen further to the level of other industrialized countries. One reason is growing differences in pay between industries, and another is the trend toward performance-based pay. To its credit, the government admitted that its income distribution reform has fallen short of expectations; it rolled out new measures to expand the middle class and improve the lives of working class persons.

The blue-collar and middle classes are indeed more vulnerable to fallout from restructuring. If restructuring drags on, those persons' grievances will become deeper, harming social solidarity and threatening restructuring. That is why it is urgent to address the growing sense of injustice felt by those persons.

The government's new policies can be summarized as providing more affordable housing, introduction of an old-age pension system and tax reform. But despite high-sounding announcements, little has been accomplished. For example, the National Basic Livelihood Security System has had many problems since it went into effect last autumn, including complaints that unqualified persons have received payments. Programs for the aged and the handicapped are only in their initial stages. The infrastructure of our social welfare system is weak, and so is the system to deliver those services. Many needy persons have slipped between the cracks.

Since funding for these programs is not guaranteed, it is unclear whether they will work well in practice. Unless the government simply wants to boast of its good policies, it should establish follow-up plans to bolster the new systems. The economy must be strong for the government to expand the welfare system. The government should remember the saying, "Employment is the best welfare" and not neglect Korean business competitiveness and job creation.
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