Social responsibility for senior welfare
The 2002 film “Public Enemy” begins with a brutal murder. A man kills his own parents when they decide to donate their fortune to the community. When he could not inherit his parents’ money, he turned into a public enemy.
Last year, television drama “What Happened to My Family” had over 40 percent viewership. Cha Soon-bong raised a lawsuit against his three children when they didn’t visit him in the hospital and only wanted to inherit the building he owns. He took his children to court to get back the money he had spent on his children since they were 20.
These dramatic events are no longer found only in movies and TV shows. Lawsuits over lack of filial piety have increased from 135 cases in 2004 to 262 in 2014, doubling in 10 years.
The New Politics Alliance for Democracy is preparing a bill that allows parents to retrieve assets transferred to their children when the children don’t fulfill the duty of supporting the parents. The Ministry of Justice is also preparing a revision on the civil law. The JoongAng Ilbo reported the story on Aug. 31, and many readers welcomed the change, saying things such as:
“When you get inheritance, you must support the parents.” “There has to be legal protection for aging parents.” “In China, children support their parents for life because they lose the right on inheritance. A similar law should be introduced in Korea.”
Filial piety, a tradition and virtue of Eastern society, is being discussed publicly. Opponents say that a legal approach is inappropriate, and others worry that renunciation of inheritance would make children free from the duty of supporting their parents.
It leaves bitter feelings to see the controversy and the need to define filial piety by law. However, supporting old parents cannot become a duty given solely to families. Extended families have fallen by the wayside, and nuclear families are far more common. With life expectancy increasing, many children find supporting aging parents burdensome. We need to seriously think about the social responsibility for senior welfare.
I want to ask politicians not to take the votes of senior citizens into account in the next general election when discussing the filial piety bill. Once a law is changed, it is not easy to change or revise it. So legislation needs to be based on thorough discussions of the pros and cons.
No one remains young forever, and we all grow old. It is my own problem, and a problem for all of us, and it is too important to approach with political intentions.
The author is a political and international news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 2, Page 33
by KIM HYOUNG-GU