Published : 2013-09-30 20:22
Updated : 2013-09-30 20:22
Rival parties clashed over the downsized basic pension program on Monday, the first day of the regular session of the National Assembly.
The main opposition Democratic Party lambasted the government reneging on Park Geun-hye’s key election pledge by excluding the top 30 percent of seniors in terms of income from the proposed monthly subsidy of 200,000 won.
“Failing to keep a presidential election pledge made for disadvantaged seniors and deceiving (the public) is unacceptable,” said DP lawmaker Rep. Lee Mok-hee, who chairs the Health and Welfare Committee at the parliament.
The DP lawmaker also slammed Cheong Wa Dae for making a top-down decision to link the existing National Pension Service with the basic state pension scheme.
The ruling Saenuri Party countered that the opposition party was leading the National Assembly into another pointless war of words.
“The passage of the bill on the basic pension scheme has to be prioritized to establish (improved) welfare for the people,” said Rep. Yoo Jae-joong of the Saenuri Party.
“Political parties should no longer bicker over Health and Welfare Minister Chin Young’s resignation but seek ways to implement better welfare policies,” he added.
The minister offered to resign last week in a feud over the pension plan. His departure dealt a blow to the government and became a fresh point of attack for the DP. Park accepted his resignation on Monday after Chin defied her order to stay.
Chin told reporters on Sunday that he was particularly frustrated with the presidential office’s decision to operate the new basic pension system in connection with the NPS.
The rival parties also butted heads over the government‘s plan to pay less to those who subscribed to the contributory pension system for more than 12 years. The plan sparked instant opposition from seniors and young NPS subscribers. Currently, the earning-based, contributory pension system has more than 20 million subscribers nationwide.
The DP demanded the government revise its proposal and the president apologize again, claiming Cheong Wa Dae had lied that NPS subscribers would not get fewer benefits.
“It is clear that people who have paid NPS payments for longer will get less basic pension payment,” Rep. Lee of the DP said. “This is an unacceptable and incontestable plan.”
Rep. Choi Dong-ik of the DP also raised problems with connecting the NPS system to the new basic pension plan.
“Rich seniors could enjoy bigger benefits than the poor because the plan is designed to pay out less to NPS subscribers according to how long they have paid into it,” he said.
Elderly citizens in a relatively high income bracket who make a higher contribution in a short period of time will get bigger benefits than poor seniors who pay into the national pension fund for a longer period of time.
The Saenuri Party said that the president had already made a public apology, adding that it was too early to call Park’s welfare policies a failure.
“(Attacking Park’s) election pledges as a failure less than a year (since she) took office seems to be just another political offensive. Welfare issues should not be subject to political wrangling,” said Rep. Ryu Ji-young of the Saenuri Party.