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[Opinion] Politics in Pension

Posted June. 02, 2004 20:59,   


When the Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi returned home after wrapping up his scheduled visit to North Korea back on May 22, rumors were circulated in the Japanese political world that “Mr. Koizumi is very lucky or quick-witted in political tactics” because he slightly covered up his scandal of “being unsubscribed in the national pension,” by attracting people’s attention to the summit talks between North Korea and Japan. Because the culture and information minister, who was considered to be in the number two spot in the cabinet and the chief of the largest opposition party dishonorably relinquished their seats when their delinquency in pension payments was revealed, Koizumi’s political tactic of anti-crisis measure was enough to make his political adversaries be envious of him.

The pension crisis started when the Japanese parliament inspected the reformation law bill of the “national pension” to increase the insurance premium and reduce the insured amount. Japan’s pension system can be divided into the two categories, welfare and national pensions which are targeted on salary businessmen and women, and other independent enterprises, including members of Parliament, respectively. As the numbers of pension beneficiaries increase and insurance payment bearers plunge due to the decline in birth rate and extension of average life span, the financial condition of the national pension has been radically aggravated. Because recognition that the pension system will not work properly has become prevalent, the delinquency rate has reached the 40 percent level. As the fact that even the politicians who try to revise the pension system are not subscribed to the pension was revealed, people’s distrust over the national pension system brought about censure against the political world.

In Korea, the conflict over pension between internet users and the National Pension Corporation is heating up. In the respect that the essential factors of pension problems are connected to the rise of the population of senior citizens, the two countries are facing similar problems. With its recessed economy, it became much harder for Koreans to pay pension premiums. In Japan, the core of conflicts is as to whether or not people’s incomes from pensions can cross the fifty percent level of one’s average salary. But, in Korea, we have to be anxious about pensions being totally drained. The Korea Development Institute has already warned that the fund, which is currently at the level of 11 trillion won, will be exhausted by 2046.

The leading figures in the Korean political world strongly point out the impendence of reformation, asserting that things should be changed in various fields of society such as journalism, judicature, and education. Like the national pension, which is not that outstanding of a field, the reformation will be postponed or neglected. Is there anything more important than the pension problem for the common people, which is the minimum foundation of their livelihood in old age? Though the pension scandal ruined several Japanese politicians, the fact that they are musing over the problems of their next generation deserves good marks. Considering that the assemblymen and women are being carefree about the pension problems, is it only the rich who don’t have to worry about their old ages in National Assembly?

Correspondent in Tokyo, Park Won-jae, parkwj@donga.com