[EDITORIALS]Pension reform is essential

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[EDITORIALS]Pension reform is essential

Health and Welfare Minister Kim Keun-tae said yesterday, “It is immoral not to fix the national pension law.”
He added, “If we do not revise the pension law now, in 20 years we would have to pay 30 percent of our income in social insurance fees, and that would mean handing down an unbearable burden to our sons and daughters.”
This was Mr. Kim’s earnest appeal for passage of the pension reform bill in the National Assembly.
The future of the pension system reform is so uncertain that the welfare minister has to make reference to immorality. But not many would welcome reform. Who would welcome a measure in which insurance fees would increase from 9 percent to 16 percent of an employee’s income and the payout would decrease from 60 percent to 50 percent?
However, if we consider the heavy burden on future generations, the government must persuade the current generation to accept the reform measures.
If this reform bill of “pay more, get less” is not approved, by 2050, 30 percent of an individual’s income would go to pension and insurance fees. This means that it would be virtually impossible to achieve economic growth and national vitality.
The problem lies in the fact that even if the situation appears dire, the governing party does not show a strong willingness to reform the pension system. This is because the governing powers want to delay a policy that has lost popularity at present.
When Japan’s governing party passed a pension reform bill this year, they lost the Upper House elections, and when France pursued pension reform in 1997, the governing party lost the general elections that year.
Even if pension reform policies are unpopular during election periods, pursuing the issue is necessary to prevent a greater national disaster such as a pension bankruptcy.
This is the time for President Roh Moo-hyun to take a decisive stance. During the presidential election in 2002, Mr. Roh made statements that ran contrary to pension reform, and he must apologize for this.
He must meet with opposition leaders and discuss this matter. Only then can the issue of reforming the pension system hold ground within the governing party.
For the success of “unpopular reform policies,” he must throw himself into the matter as the president.
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