[LETTERS to the editor]Help reverse the demographic curseThe National Statistical Office announced that Korea is transforming into an aged society from an aging society. Senior citizens over the age of 65 constituted 9.5 percent of Korea’s population as of July 1. The graying of the labor market and rising silver population is considered a problematic social phenomenon. So, it is worthwhile that the government is reminding us that this is a problem, and in addition, tries to promote child birth.
Two points must be considered. First, the 21st century is no longer based on manual labor. Second, the graying of the population does not have a direct relation with low birth rates (a common misconception); low birth rates only accompany the problem of the decreasing population of teenagers compared to the elderly.
With these two points in mind, the whole issue revolves around a word, “reproduction.” Reproduction is an innate instinct: It is an instinct for animals to mate, plants to fertilize. It is also a natural instinct for capitalism to reproduce in the manner of mass production for the turnover of capital. A society, or a country, has this attribute for survival, for continuous prosperity. Korea exemplifies such a trait with its history of many dynasties rising and falling. So, simply, an aging society with low birth rates obstructs this instinct.
A country is run with the taxes its citizens pay. In order to collect taxes, the government must create more job opportunities to enable more people to pay taxes. This is the cardinal issue: with more people retiring and not many new-generation people getting employed, taxes needed to fund social welfare are not available. With a silver population of 9.5 percent and growing, funds for social welfare, pensions for instance, must be well managed. Former President Kim Dae-jung made national pension mandatory in order to create an efficient pension system. But without more babies, who are potential human labor resources and taxpayers, the national pension will fail; most consequentially, the country will suffer stagnation. Thus, it seems reasonable for Korean citizens to stop criticizing the current administration in an implacable manner. This social phenomenon depends not only on the policies of the government but also on the compatible attitude of the public. If only harangues continue, no salutary solutions can be found for Korea.
by Kim Tae-ho