[Viewpoint]Train husbands, or divorce themThe government draft of a national pension reform bill was turned down Monday by lawmakers who neglected their duty of deliberating. The draft contained a clause that encouraged remarriage by divorced couples.
The clause stipulates that the divided pension that was paid to a divorced spouse be paid continuously, even after the spouse’s remarriage. Under current law, the divorced spouse cannot get the divided portion of the pension after remarriage.
The divided pension system allows the divorced spouse to share the pension according to the length of the marriage with the pension receiver. If a husband who has retired from his job receives 800,000 won ($857) a month, his divorced wife will get 400,000 won a month from the time she turns 60. As of February this year, there are 958 divided pension receivers, with the highest amount being 416,170 won and the lowest being 34,780 won.
Korea introduced the divided pension system ahead of Japan in 1999. Japan launched “the old-age welfare pension divide system” on March 1 of this year. Japan adopted the new system in 2003. Miraculously, a divorce rate that had been on the rise started to decrease in 2003.
In particular, the divorce rate among people who have been married 25 to 30 years has decreased 21 percent. The decrease was two times higher than that of other age groups. It was interpreted that many women had decided to postpone divorce until their husbands’ retirement, with the aim of receiving the divided pension. According to a research institute, it is estimated that the number of couples who have postponed divorce is about 42,000.
In Japan, they call the age when a person is about to retire the ripe age, making it sound more pleasant. It means a person is at a ripe age after tasting the bitter and sweet experience of life.
Sometimes, of course, people are not sweet to their spouse. Many people in Korea and Japan belong to the post-World War II baby boomer generation.
The generation of men born between 1947 and 1949 formed a formidable work force of 5.03 million people and spent most of their lifetime as “company men.” In their homes, they seldom had the experience of cooking.
Now, these Korean husbands are in the month of April when nobody knows whether his wife will suddenly demand a divorce because of the new pension law.
In the survey of 5,000 men and women belonging to this generation carried out in October of last year, there was a shocking result. To the question, “What is the reason you want your husband to continue working after retirement,” some 41.1 percent of women replied, “Because I don’t want to see him idling at home.” For Koreans belonging to the older generation, that response is certainly worth noting.
Nowadays, Japanese men are belatedly studying the secrets of living with wives, either by forming groups or joining Internet cafes of like-minded men.
Perhaps wives have also thought it better to improve their husbands rather than make the extreme choice of divorce. A book called, “Training Retired Husbands,” by Yuri Ogawa, 60, a woman essayist, is on the best-seller list.
Perhaps it is better to receive a full pension by staying married than getting the divided pension a woman can receive after divorce.
If we put aside other reasons that lead to divorce, then divorce itself is a losing game as far as the pension payment is concerned.
The same applies to Korea, too. Therefore, the book says it is better to transform husbands according to the tastes of their wives.
Ms. Ogawa suggests 15 ways of training husbands in her book. I think they can also be of help to Korean wives who live with retired husbands. Here they are:
“1. Let your husband cook his own lunch; 2. Have a conversation with your husband at the dining table; 3. Let your husband share household chores; 4. Don’t spend the whole day with your husband;
5. You may use separate bedrooms for sounder sleep; 6. Don’t let your husband dangle after you; 7. Encourage your husband to enjoy his hobby; 8. Have a date with your husband at least once every two months.
9. Don’t spare words of comfort when your husband is sick; 10. Praise your husband often; 11. Take your husband out and introduce him to your neighbors;
12. Let your husband work at least once a week; 13. Don’t let others know when you intervene with your husband; 14. Take care that your husband’s attire is not disheveled; 15. Make a bank account for you only.”
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun