[EDITORIALS]Political hypocrisyWhen questioned about suspicions regarding unpaid premiums to the national pension fund at his confirmation hearings, the health minister-designate Rhyu Si-min said it was true that he did not report himself as a subscriber to a fund but that he did not intentionally evade paying his contributions. He added, “It was an illegal act that would be subject to a fine of less than 100,000 won ($103).” He was implying that he did something wrong, but it wasn’t such a grave act as to disqualify him from becoming a minister.
The problem is that the next health minister’s biggest task is to reform the National Pension Fund. The money that he should have paid between July 1999 and July 2000 was only about 150,000 won.
Mr. Rhyu may feel wrongly accused, but when the National Pension Fund was expanded to include self-employed people living in cities in April 1999, Mr. Rhyu wrote a column supporting the system.
At the time, Mr. Rhyu criticized people who refused to pay into the fund, saying that those opposing the expansion of the fund didn’t understand its purpose. He was more knowledgeable about pension issues than the general public, and had paid national health insurance premiums during that same term, which makes it difficult to understand how he could have unwittingly avoided paying the pension premiums.
Mr. Rhyu’s wife also was employed between September 2002 and December 2004 and she did not pay the premiums for the National Pension Fund either.
Mr. Rhyu studied pension systems in Germany. Does it make sense that he didn’t know the principle of social insurance ― where there is an income, there are premiums? If such a man becomes minister and tries to reform the National Pension Fund, will he be able to persuade the people that he is interested in reforms?
Mr. Rhyu has already apologized for paying party membership fees of 7 million won five months late last year. While applying a strict rod to others about being honest and upright, he should not be so benevolent to himself.
Two years ago in Japan, the chief cabinet secretary, the president of the Democratic Party and the incoming acting president of the Democratic Party all stepped down because they were found to have not made pension payments. The people’s distrust in pension-related issues is in a serious state. In these circumstances, Mr. Rhyu should decide on his future course in a resposible way ― as a minister and as a politician.