[Outlook]Duty-free politicians

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[Outlook]Duty-free politicians

It is nothing new for Koreans to express keen disappointment in politicians. However, this time, elected leaders are really going too far. A proposal to revise the national pension system was killed recently, and we have no choice but to suspect that they are not worried about the country at all.
The pension deficit continues to snowball, creating future problems for the economy. However, the National Assembly passed a law that will likely increase the deficit and killed a proposal that would slash it.
There is nothing to do but laugh at how pathetic the lawmakers are and how miserable Korea will be.
It has been said several times that our pension system is deeply flawed. However, it is absurd that lawmakers continue to make things worse rather than righting the wrongs in the system.
Lee Hae-chan, the former prime minister, made a blunt yet apt comment in April 2005 in the National Assembly when he said that the government lied to the public when it created the national pension system.
In fact, this was nothing new.
Roh Moo-hyun, then a presidential candidate, appeared on a TV debate show and took a similar tone, enabling him to win many votes.
He catered to the public, saying that pension benefits should not be slashed and premiums should be raised according to prevailing economic conditions
Meanwhile, Lee Hoi-chang, also a former presidential hopeful, said that we should bite the bullet in order to address the pension deficit by choosing to decrease the pension benefits and to increase the premium.
I can recall the debate vividly since I was dumbfounded by Roh’s remarks.
It is fortunate to see that he has changed his view on this. He must have awoken to how irresponsible his comments were when his sights were set only on winning more votes.
However, the revision offered during his final phase as president, which proposed paying more and having fewer benefits, failed to win approval in the National Assembly. The ruling party is already battered, so it is no use holding the party in power accountable.
What is most pathetic, however, is the opposition party, the Grand National Party.
What a pity it is that what Lee Hoi-chang championed in the last presidential election has been completely reversed. It is preposterous that the party that advocated reducing pension deficits, even at the risk of losing the election, now is arguing that it should risk financial deficits by strengthening the basic state pension.
The Uri Party adopted the view of the Grand National Party, which has deserted its previous stance and is now on the side of the Democratic Labor Party.
The Grand National Party must have thought that the national pension fund played a part in their defeat in the previous presidential election.
It does not end here. The Grand National Party supported a bill approving the transfer of the central government agencies from the capital city, which made things worse. This reflected the party’s shallow calculation that it would lose votes from the Chungcheong provinces, even though the party initially opposed the bill.
However, when the participatory government announced its intention to move the capital, then they made a fuss, opposing the move.
It is worrisome that such a party seeks to govern the country, and will likely do so. The pension system will probably be all but ruined if the system drags on and is passed over in the upcoming presidential election.
Who will support the revision of the pension system, which will require a public sacrifice?
What is certain is that lawmakers will do whatever they must to maintain their job titles. As Lee Hae-chan put it, politicians’ slogans of patriotism are all lies and politicians are a group of swindlers. This is true of all parties.
Is there any solution to this? If Korea’s politicians are so chronically fickle-minded, then what about importing politicians from abroad?
Now that we have concluded a free trade agreement with the United States, there are no tariffs on U.S. politicians.
Why don’t we import some of them and assign them political posts on a turnkey basis to enhance Korea’s politics?
This is absurd, of course, but there is no other way to vent my concerns.

*The writer is the CEO of the JoongAng Ilbo News Magazine. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Chang-kyu
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