[EDITORIALS]Pension reform urgentPark Myung-jae, the new minister of government administration and home affairs, recently suggested that a reform of the pension system for public workers could be delayed until the next administration. “The government has yet decided anything [about a reform plan],” Mr. Park said. “We should discuss whether to announce a reform plan within the year.” Asked whether the government still intends to revise the pension system for public workers in the current Roh Moo-hyun administration, Mr. Park said, “We will also have to discuss the issue with related agencies and review the schedule.”
The government said in April it would devise a plan to reform the public pension scheme by the end of this year. Then, in September, Lee Yong-sup, former minister of government administration, said that after the Korea Development Institute and a committee consisting of experts and civic group representatives presented their own proposals for the reform, the government would make its plan based on them within this year and would promote legislation early next year. The two proposals from the think tank and the committee have already been presented. But the Ministry of Government Administration is now stepping back. According to a survey by the Korea Development Institute, the average life-long income of public workers is 9 percent higher than that of other wage earners, thanks to pensions. Accordingly, it is rational to reform the pension for public workers first among state-run pensions, when the government’s financial conditions are considered. Who will support the government’s plan to reform state-run pensions, if the government keeps such an attitude? People might conduct campaigns to protest the government’s national pension reform.
The Ministry of Government Administration showed a similar attitude in 2000 when it revised the pension law. The ministry did not reflect the demand for reforms from scholars, citing protests from public workers. A reform of the pension for public workers directly affects the interests of the ministry. Accordingly, it is impossible for the ministry to be neutral in planning reform. The ministry had better withdraw from designing the reform and leave it to an objective committee. The administration seems to be counting votes of public workers before the presidential election, scheduled late in 2007. But the government should remember that it can lose many more votes than it gains with such a practice.