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Let's look forward to social integration and welfare state

Let's look forward to social integration and welfare state

Posted May. 13, 2017 07:14,   

Updated May. 13, 2017 07:19


President Moon Jae-in made his second order Friday on the withdrawal of the state-authored history textbooks and singing the "March for the Beloved" in unison at the May 18 memorial ceremony. Considering that the president ordered to reinvestigate the Sewol Ferry Disaster the previous day, he seems to express his intention to clean up deep-rooted evils of the Park Geun-hye administration. If the new administration continues to dwell on past mistakes and create internal discords while arguing the grand integration, it is definitely against the desire and expectations of Korean citizens who want to end the conflict and heal the wounds.

As the president intends, the stated-authored history textbooks, the focal project of the Park Geun-hye administration, will disappear and people will sing the "March for the Beloved" at the May 18 memorial ceremony this year. Yoon Young-chan, the chief presidential secretary for public relations, said, “The state-authored history textbooks are symbols of an outdated and standardized history education as well as divisive education that splits the nation. The president's decision to repeal the state-authored history textbooks is to show a determined will that the history education should not serve as a mean to deliver political arguments.” In our columns, the Dong-A Ilbo pointed out that the leftist perspective found in the authorized textbooks is a severe problem but opposed the establishment of state-authored textbooks as it may lead to the standardization of history education. However, the decision of the Moon administration should not result in damaging the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea or creating another history war that divides the nation with different views on history education.

President Moon’s comment on the reinvestigation of the Sewol ferry disaster also looks serious. Mr. Moon said Wednesday, “It appears that people want to reinvestigate the disaster as the special investigation commission on the Sewol ferry was dismantled before it completes the given duty.” His mention raised the possibility of investigating the body of the ship that was driven on shore as well as launching another special investigation commission. However, we all know already that the direct causes of the Sewol sinking were excessive extension and overloaded cargo. Then, what else is there and what kind of suspicions remain unresolved?

We have many issues already and the social conflict is reaching boiling point. The withdrawal of the state-authored history textbooks and other issues can easily be spread into an ideological conflict and the problem of polarization rooted in the income inequality would soon be turned into a severe conflict. According to the 2016 household trend, the income distribution, which had improved since 2008, deteriorated last year. The income of the top 20 percent of households increased but the income of low-income group hit record low (5.6 percent) last year. Also, an average monthly wage of irregular workers was 1.494 million won, or mere 53.5 percent of that of permanent workers (2.795 million won). An average monthly wage of employees working in small and medium-sized businesses was 3.23 million won, or 62.9 percent of that of employees working in large companies (5.13 million won).

The new administration must focus on providing solutions to reduce social conflicts regardless of ideology and class. To this end, the most urgent task is to establish welfare policies that offer the disadvantaged an equal opportunity and an environment where they can live like a human being. With regard to the welfare policy, President Moon promised to increase a basic pension offered to seniors of bottom 70 percent from 200,000 won to 300,000 won to the maximum, and to introduce the child allowance of 100,000 won per month (aged 0 to 5) and jobseeker’s allowance for young people of 300,000 won per month.

We feel the need to social security programs tailored to generations, but feasibility concerns are raised. First of all, there is no specific financial plan. According to Moon’s campaign promises, welfare spending accounts for 24.3 trillion won among the total budget of 35.6 trillion won. In addition to the current childcare subsidies and child benefits, the increase of basic pension program costs 4.4 trillion won per year and the newly established child allowance requires 2.6 trillion won more each year. We should learn from the mistakes of the Park Geun-hye administration. During her campaign, Park promised the adoption of Nuri curriculum and this caused the "childcare chaos" surrounding the budget allocation each year.

Once a welfare policy is implemented, there is no turning back. It’s time to figure out ways to provide "customized welfare" that provides more benefits to the vulnerable by reducing blind area, rather than increasing welfare programs without limit under the name of universal welfare. In the TV debates of presidential candidates, some argued "pay less with less benefits" with regard to welfare policies. It is easy to provide promises rather than persuading the public. If we increase our debt, however, it is equal to commit a crime against future generations. Hence, we need to create more decent jobs and grow our economy in order to expand welfare benefits.

Our nation was divided into candlelight and Taegeuki (the national flag of Korea) during the impeachment process of President Park. The unity of community is urgently needed more than ever. President Moon solemnly swore that he will be the president for the people. He must keep in mind that the moves he made during early days of his term will determine the remaining five years when he provides a roadmap on social integration and how he envisages a future of Korea. The leadership of unity that resolves conflicts of ideology, class, generation is desperately needed.