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Uncivil civil servants

A public debate to evaluate a set of recommendations to reform government employees’ pensions was canceled Monday due to rowdy interference by members of a government employees’ union. Members dominated the hearing venue hosted by the Korea Pension Association, blocking public entrance. About 500 members filled the seats holding banners and loudly protested the reform plan. Some hollered at panelists. Saenuri Party Rep. Na Seong-lin tried to calm the crowd, shouting into the microphone that the proposal was just a proposal and not one that the ruling party had agreed upon.

Resistance was expected, but not in such a violent way. Government employees are an elite part of society. It is shameful that they have resorted to such outdated militant activism. The purpose of the public hearing was to hear different opinions on a topic. The proposal by the Korea Pension Association is just a set of recommendations. If there are problems in the proposal, they should be pointed out. Ruining a public debate won’t derail the reform plan. Collective action only paints government employees in an unfavorable light.

Government employees are already publicly resented because they enjoy unfairly generous pension terms. Most pensioners receive 870,000 won per month after paying into the system for 20 years. But government employees receive 2.17 million won. Subscribers of the national pension scheme are currently eligible for payout starting at 61. For government employees, the pension age is 56. Government employees argue that the pension is the only perk of such a low-paying job. But then they should demand an increase in severance pay instead of insisting on such a wasteful system.

Aging is the biggest challenge to our society. The national pension scheme was restructured in 2007 to make it sustainable. If left untouched, the pension system will run out of money by 2047. Even dutifully contributing for 40 years, a pensioner receives 40 percent to 50 percent of what they earned monthly while working. But they settle for less because they have to leave money for the future generation. The separate government employees’ pension scheme was under review in 2007 for a similar overhaul, but was hardly touched due to opposition. They can receive 62.7 percent of what they earned if they work for 33 years. A 40-year service will guarantee 76 percent of their salary in retirement.

Government employees are paid by the people and must serve the people. They must also share pain with the people. The government must not give into their protest this time.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 23, Page 38

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