[Outlook]A vision for the futureThe political arena is hopeless these days. Other sectors are improving rapidly but the political field has been going backward. A person needs to pay extra attention to figure out what is going on in politics.
One thing is sure. Politicians are having fierce battles and pouring all their energies and resources into the presidential election. If one person wins an election, others must lose of course.
But what is worrisome is whether the losers will take it well. If politicians cling to election results even after the election is over, the winner’s policies are at risk of becoming casualties of election.
The presidential campaign has become a competition to present pledges that suit people’s tastes.
Thus, social welfare is perfect as an issue to be used as an election pledge because it is more about benefits and rights more than duties or obligations.
Social welfare becomes subordinate to politics, as experts put it. Presidential candidates tend to be generous with social welfare as a means to please voters, while ignoring measures to reduce or improve social welfare policy, which is very necessary at times.
There will likely be confusion and chaos during this election campaign, according to many signs.
After countless debates over a long period, scholars, experts and politicians produced a compromise over the bill for a revised national pension program.
But the bill is being neglected in one corner of the National Assembly because politicians worry that it might not help their election campaign or they have other more pressing issues to be concerned about.
The representatives seem to feel that the national pension program is neither their issue nor does it belong to anyone else.
They seem to view it as something irritating. They cannot throw it away but they do not want to brood over it either.
It is not only the National Assembly lawmakers who treat the issue this way.
The employees of a few government research institutes recently chose to become beneficiaries of the pension intended for private school teachers instead of the national pension program. This was viewed as an act that deceived the people.
The Korea Development Institute was the leading organization that maintained that the national pension program should be revised to stabilize the pension fund.
The Academy of Korean Studies studied financial crises in public pension programs in developed countries more thoroughly than any other institution.
The employees at these bodies will gain more short-term benefits when they choose the pension for teachers at private schools.
But they are clearly aware that their moves will deplete the funds of this pension program in the long run. They deserve criticism because they pursue short-term benefits and cause financial crisis in the funds for teachers at private schools, part of the national pension program, instead of sharing the burden of the entire population.
Both politicians and research institutes seem to discard the national pension program issue, for they are too busy pursuing their own interests.
The revision of the national pension program is aimed at making the social safety net function properly so all people are guaranteed a stable life after retirement and will not fall into poverty suddenly if they become disabled or family members die.
We must resolve problems in the pension program which we have created so the program works well for our generation and the following generations.
But the reform of the pension program, which is of historic importance, is being treated as an irritating issue at the National Assembly. If we miss the timing, we might need to wait a whole generation or even longer before we can try to reform the program again.
If that happens, we will be remembered as those who planted the seed of the pension program but neglected it afterwards. We must not become the most selfish and incompetent generation in our history. We must watch closely which presidential candidate will work hard for the pension program so we can be proud of it. We need to demand this and make sure that the candidate accepts this.
It is clear that a presidential candidate who openly presents his or her stance on the reform of the national pension program is the most earnest person, and not someone who attempts to fool the people.
In politics, people can only see as far as the next election. Concerning the national pension program, people can see as far as the next generation. A society advances when it has people who prepare for the future.
Now the people need to see which candidate shares this vision.
*The writer is a professor of social welfare at Yonsei University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jin-soo