[LETTERS to the editor]A home-grown social welfare policy

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[LETTERS to the editor]A home-grown social welfare policy

It has been almost a half year since the president was sworn into office after winning the election with the largest margin in Korean history. It is not enough time to judge whether Lee’s administration is on the right track or not but it is true that there are some doubts beginning to surface about his policies, especially on the social welfare system.

The word “welfare” has many meanings; its dictionary meaning is well-being (today one of the most popular English words in South Korea!) but it also refers to public service systems in general. Thus, health insurance, education, unemployment support, pensions and public utilities among various services are often considered as falling under public welfare.

Lee pursues an idea of liberalism which advocates that the government should not be involved in the social welfare system. This stance was very shocking and it had struggled to be accepted by the public because it is a totally different policy from the Roh administration’s. Lee is probably expecting to bring about a trickle-down effect [along the lines of Reaganite economics] from his new policy.

The idea of a trickle down effect is simple enough; it emphasizes cutting taxes and curbing expenditure on social welfare to stabilize and enlarge a nation’s economy. In this sense, we can assume that perhaps, Lee hopes his new social welfare policy would result in resolving poverty as well as developing the nation’s market economy.

The United States is one of the countries that has applied this market-oriented theory to its economic and social policies.

I think Lee only tries to see its positive effects while neglecting reality. He should know that South Korea’s market economy is not as big as America’s. The U.S. was able to succeed with this theory because it had a very stable economy and also a strong national infrastructure.

To be honest, I don’t think that we as a nation have yet realized the importance of welfare. And at present, Korea’s financial situation is absolutely insufficient to be able to afford to reform its system for distributing social benefits. A bigger problem, moreover, is the nation’s current lack in capability for providing for its public sector.

It is a world-wide trend to decentralize, localize and privatize welfare services. But before this can be possible here, South Korea needs to first establish a strong welfare system. It should do so at the local level, in cooperation with provincial governments. There is no need to pursue either an American-style welfare system or the Swedish welfare model. We need to create our own welfare system that is most suitable for this nation. Especially when considering the long-term, creating our very own welfare system is the best thing that we can do.

In conclusion, it’s not only me, but most of the people are concerned about Lee’s new social welfare policy. Such a system should pursue the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people; creating our own social welfare system should be encouraged.

Yejun Han,

11 grade, Castleknock College, UK

e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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