Charges fly over pension reformsRuling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moon-sung denounced Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon for a remark in an interview earlier this week that pensions are the only hope of civil servants, since they receive low wages during their working years.
The ruling party interpreted the statement as Park opposing changes to the civil service pension system, a major reform being pursued by the Park Geun-hye administration.
Mayor Park said later that he only meant the reforms required consensus among Korean society.
“Mayor Park made an unreasonable statement,” Kim said at a supreme council meeting at the National Assembly on Thursday. “It was a very careless and inappropriate remark from a person who is well aware of the financial difficulties of the central government.”
Kim added, “The statement, which sounded like he was opposing the pension reform plan, also hurt the pride of people who are trying to become civil servants.”
Kim emphasized that the debt-ridden pension system for government employees should be changed as soon as possible.
“If we don’t reform the pension system, a baby that is born next year is destined to pay 37.8 million won ($34,500) in tax over his or her entire life to cover the deficit,” Kim added.
“Given that a huge amount of taxpayer money is going to be needed to maintain the current pension system for civil servants, I demand Park clarify his position.”
The ruling party chairman also urged concrete developments in the reform plan by the major political parties.
“Based on an agreement by the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, the bipartisan special committee deciding the reforms ends its activities on March 28,” said Kim. “The main opposition party should come up with a plan that reflects the opinions of the public and government employees.”
However, the committee’s meeting on Wednesday at the National Assembly did not go smoothly as representatives of a government employee organization abruptly left after members from the Saenuri Party did not accept their request that reform of civil service pensions must be discussed along with reforms of other pension systems, such as the National Pension Service and basic pension welfare payment system.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government tried to clarify Park’s remarks.
“What Mayor Park tried to say was that the pension is the only thing civil servants can rely on, and governments will lose talented individuals without it,” said spokesman Kim In-cheol later Thursday. “He intended to say the matter should be fully discussed because reforms need social consensus.
“He did not oppose the reforms themselves, but only stressed that the committee should not miss [forging a social consensus].”
The municipal government also released a recording of the interview, in which Park said, “We could successfully achieve modernization thanks to members of the social elite [working as government employees] and one of the reasons was the pension system [for government employees].”
BY KIM BONG-MOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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