Balance is important (KOR)

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Balance is important (KOR)

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The owner of a mart showed kindness when a hungry man in his 30s and his son shoplifted at his store. A policeman released them with just a warning and treated them with meals. Then, a philanthropist gave 200,000 won ($172) to the poor father and son, and left. The story of a Jean Valjean in Incheon allowed me to taste humanity. The philanthropist refused an interview.

It was a rare story of benevolence. The 34-year-old father quit driving his taxi six months ago. He was suffering from a thyroid condition and diabetes. As he does not have any income, he receives 1.5 million won in maximum living subsidies and housing pay, 100,000 won for child subsidies, and other medical and education support. President Moon Jae-in asked to see if the welfare system could help more, but field officials say there is nothing more that can be done.

The Korean Jean Valjean laughs at the 11th largest economy in the world. The policeman said that after paying rent, communication charges and utility fees, he is left with no money to buy books for the children. When he was caught stealing, he asked to be forgiven. He may have been tempted to steal milk and apples because his sons, 7 and 12, and old mother skipped a meal. Recently, a North Korean defector mother and her son also died of starvation.

Does Korea spend less on welfare? The size is only half of what developed countries spend, but it actually grew 2.2 times from 81 trillion won to 181 trillion won in 10 years. For every election, the welfare budget is rising like bets in a poker game. Universal welfare from Northern Europe has been imported and dressed as free welfare as seen in free childcare, school meals, education and school uniforms. Various subsidies are offered to children, elderly, farmers and fishers and the youth. Recently, the Ministry of Welfare invited Swedish scholar Joakim Palme to promote the values of universal welfare.

The head of “Welfare State Created by Me” said that the average rate of increase for basic living subsidies recipients in the first three years of the Moon Jae-in administration was 2.06 percent, lower than 3.38 percent in the Park Geun-hye administration. Until now, we cared less about the extremely poor while pursuing the rainbow of universal welfare. I don’t mean to say that selective welfare for the low income class is needed. Balance is important. The bigger problem is the 900,000 people who are poor yet are not eligible for subsidies just because they have children. Korea has the highest senior poverty and suicide rate in the world. Resources should be more focused on the poor. In particular, 200,000 senior citizens, who still are not eligible for welfare, need more attention.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 24, Page

복지에 181조 쓴다는데 웬 장발장? 신성식 논설위원
온정 베푼 마트, 훈방과 국밥으로 대응한 경찰관, 20만원을 주고 사라진 60대 독지가…. 인천 장발장 부자 스토리는 오랜만에 사람 냄새를 맡게 해줬다. 사업가는 인터뷰를 극구 사양했다. 오랜만에 사람 냄새가 풀풀 넘친다. 아버지 A(34)씨는 6개월 전 택시기사를 그만뒀다. 갑상샘병·당뇨병을 앓고 있다. 소득이 없어 생계비 지원금 최대치와 주거급여로 150만원, 아동수당 10만원, 의료비·교육비 등을 받는다. 문재인 대통령이 "복지제도를 통해 도울 길이 없는지 살피라"고 했지만 현장에서는 "더할 게 별로 없다"고 한다.
때아닌 장발장이 경제 규모 11위 나라를 비웃는다. 경찰은 "임대료·통신비·공과금 등을 내고 나면 애들 책 살 돈이 없는 것 같더라"고 전한다. A씨는 범행이 들키자 "봐 달라"며 사시나무처럼 몸을 떨었다. 끼니를 거른 7, 12세 아들과 노모 생각에 우발적 범행을 저질렀을 수 있다. 얼마 전 탈북자 모자가 아사(餓死·굶어 죽음)한 적이 있다.
복지에 돈을 덜 쓰는가. 규모는 선진국의 절반 수준이지만 10년 만에 복지예산이 81조에서 181조원으로 2.2배(전체 증가율 1.7배)가 됐다. 선거를 치를 때마다 포커판 판돈처럼 치솟았다. 보편적 복지라는 북유럽 복지를 수입해 무상복지를 입혔다. 무상 보육·급식·교육에서 무상교복까지 등장했다. 아동·어르신·농어민·청년 등의 별의별 수당도 가세했다. 최근 복지부는 요하킴 팔메라는 스웨덴 학자를 데려와 보편적 복지를 선전했다. 장발장과 보편적 복지는 정장에 고무신만큼 낯설다.
오건호 '내가만드는복지국가' 운영위원장은 "문재인 정부 3년 동안 기초수급자 생계급여 평균 인상률은 2.06%로 박근혜 정부(3.38%)보다 낮다"고 지적한다. 그동안 보편적 복지라는 무지개를 좇다 극빈층 살피기에 상대적으로 소홀했다. 그렇다고 저소득층 위주의 선별적 복지만 하자는 게 아니다. 균형이 중요하다. 게다가 자식이 있다고 보호를 못 받는 '비수급 빈곤층' 90만명은 더 문제다. 노인 빈곤율·자살률이 괜히 세계 1위가 아니다. 빈곤층에 자원을 더 집중하고 비수급 빈곤 노인 20만명 살피기에 나서야 할 때다.
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