For the next generation
At Tuesday’s televised cabinet meeting, President Park Geun-hye urged ministers to do their best to wrap up a reform of the troubled government employees pension system within this year. She said that the longer the delay, the larger the fiscal burden we will bear in the future - on top of the burden of the past and present.
The ruling Saenuri Party jumped on the bandwagon by proposing a finalized bill aimed at revising the debt-ridden civil servants pension system on the very same day. Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung expressed impressive ambition by saying, “We must bear the cross for our next generations.” That was followed by floor leader Lee Wan-koo’s confession that “Someone must do the job no matter how tough it is.” We are relieved to see concerted action on such a thorny issue.
With regard to the reforms, President Park took the right direction. It’s not only about mending the deficit-ridden system, but also about changing the paradigm for our future. The current pension system is based on the worn-out framework of the 1960s and ’70s. At that time, the average life expectancy in Korea was 61.93 years, compared to 81.44 these days. With the age of centenarians around the corner, we can’t maintain such a generous system forever. The president pointed out that already every citizen has a 9.45 million won ($8,998) debt to cover for civil servants’ pensions.
If the system remains unchanged, citizens will have to pay 1,278 trillion won through 2080, an enormous financial burden for our offspring. Only when our pension systems are successfully revamped can the nation survive. If reforms are postponed to next year due to strong resistance from civil servants, it will also critically damage the government’s drive for reform.
Some advanced countries saw head-to-head confrontations between politicians from both sides of the aisle when confronting similar challenges. We don’t have to go so far. In 2007, the Roh Moo-hyun administration faced a similar division over a plan to reform the national pension system, but the government pressed ahead with the initiative. The people prioritized the nation over themselves - and the next generation over themselves. As a result, the administration could succeed in the national pension reform.
Chairman Kim expressed concerns that if the government carries out the pension reform, it will backfire in the next election. But it could be otherwise. As this is a task for the nation’s future, it could elicit a standing ovation from the public.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 29, Page 30