Fair compensation for veteransPreference points for veterans in public-sector hiring is one type of reward the government can offer soldiers for their mandatory service to the nation. Those who oppose such benefits base their arguments on three grounds.
First, they say the preference points discriminate against women and the disabled, who don’t do military service. But the points should be understood as compensation for military service mandatory for all Korean men aged between 20 and 35, not as discrimination against a weaker party. These men miss more than two years, on average, of building a career at a prime time of their life because of the duty they are called on to do by the nation.
As a result, those who are excluded from conscription can enjoy benefits in competition and preparation for jobs while their peers are sent away to the military. Therefore, a revival of the preference system cannot be damaging to others. In fact, it is only fair that people are compensated for their losses from military service. In reviewing the constitutionality of preference points, the Constitutional Court also acknowledged the basis of the system while ruling that the scope of points was too big and unfair against women and the disabled.
The revised version would sharply reduce preference points and restrict any hiring quotas for veterans in order to avoid clashing with the constitutional ruling. Therefore it cannot be regarded as preferential to those with military records. Moreover, women should no longer be deemed the socially weak. Female applicants have a greater pass rate than their male counterparts in civil service exams. In terms of employment, male job-seekers eligible for conscription are at a disadvantage. More support programs for the disabled should be developed if they are currently lacking instead of opposing preference points to veterans.
Second, opponents argue that preference points do not greatly help veterans as they apply to a small number of applicants sitting for civil service exams. They suggest the government should instead come up with other reward programs. But the new preference system offers the reward to not only applicants to government offices, but most public corporations. In fact, most countries award preference points in government employment to those with military service records.
Third, those opposed to the preference system argue that such a move could trigger social conflict. But in various polls, more than 80 percent of respondents approve of a preference system to veterans. More than 70 percent of the female population also approve of it. A 2010 survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family showed that 77.3 percent of women favor the revival of preference points to veterans. Resistance to a system favored by a majority of people could, in fact, trigger social divide.
Employment is a life-and-death matter for young people. It is natural for the state to provide some form of compensation for people obliged to perform their national duty for their loss of opportunities in employment. The legislature and government must ignore opposition by a small group and work toward reviving the preference system.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The writer is head of the human resource policy department at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses.
By Cho Young-jin