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[Opinion] Dignity Cost

Posted June. 12, 2008 06:22,   


Human dignity is like a grade certificate attached to a piece of jewelry. When minting a coin, a historic figure is inscribed on the surface to match the face value it represents. Unfortunately the word “dignity” nowadays refers more to the self as represented by appearance than that hidden inside the person.

While working or even after retiring, a person seldom tries to do something beneath his or her dignity for fear of driving people away. The dignity of a person is often defined by the amount of donation he or she makes and by other superficial features like the car and apparel owned. At least in Korea, people think more about what others might think than what they can afford.

According to an online survey of 1,100 Korean adults, 73 percent considered dignity costs as positive spending and a form of future investment. They said how much they spend matters little as long as they spend their own money. But what about when dignity is maintained with tax money? Whatever happens, lawmakers have sought all means to raise their paychecks every year. Now they are trying to give “dignity paychecks” to former National Assembly speakers in the name of helping maintain their dignity. According to the plan, a speaker will receive 4.5 million won a month for six years after retirement.

Furthermore, a member aged 65 years or more of the Constitutional Government Society receives one million won every month as a “dignity paycheck.” The budget for this has swollen to 10.5 billion won this year. Pork-barrel legal support backed by lawmakers aims to help lawmakers themselves since they automatically become members after leaving parliament. This is abuse of power. The Act on Promotion of the Constitutional Government Society was literally designed to promote constitutional norms in society. But what contributions have they really made? We would like to feel the dignity they have inside.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)