|Minister of Health and Welfare Chin Young talks with reporters at a building in Seoul on Sunday (Yonhap News)|
Minister of Health and Welfare Chin Young on Sunday defied President Park Geun-hye’s order to stay in office after he offered to resign last week in an apparent feud over the government’s recent rollback of key welfare programs.
He told reporters that he would not return to work because his conscience will not allow him to stay in office while the government reneges on its promise on the basic pension plan, in which he was actively involved.
“How can I persuade the public, the parliament and the opposition party about the basic pension plan I have been opposing? This is an issue (concerning) my conscience before being a minister,” Chin said.
“I have done my best to bring about the launch of the Park Geun-hye administration in the past two years, and I hope (the president) will now give me permission to step down. I want to rest a little.”
He added that his sense of duty in supporting the Park Geun-hye administration remained unchanged and that he hoped to return to the parliament to support the president as a legislator. Chin is currently serving his third term as a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker.
Talk of Chin’s intention to resign arose earlier this month along with speculation about the Park Geun-hye administration’s plans to scale back the basic pension system for senior citizens.
On Sept. 25, some days after rumors arose, Chin stated that he felt that it was difficult for him to continue serving in his current post.
Since Chin’s intentions were made known, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has attempted to play down related reports, and called for him to resume his duties.
The welfare minister, however, responded with a statement Friday saying that he was resigning as he felt responsible through his office in the parliament.
Although Park had pledged to provide all seniors with 200,000 won ($186) per month in basic pension during her campaign, the plans have since been altered, reducing the number of beneficiaries and the monthly payout.
The revised plans exclude seniors in the top 30 percent in terms of income, and the payment will vary according to the amount that recipients contributed to the pension scheme.
The changes have prompted severe criticism from opposition parties and senior citizens. The presidential office has been trying to contain the fallout, with the president promising to keep her pledge during her term while her aides defend the plans.
“It is untrue that people who have paid the National Pension payments for longer will lose out,” senior employment and welfare secretary Choi Won-young said Sunday.
“The basic pension is provided in addition to the National Pension, so total pension gets larger the longer you are registered in the national pension system.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com