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Korean government refutes WP report over poor seniors

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Published : 2014-01-23 15:36
Updated : 2014-01-23 18:08

(Yonhap)
South Korea’s Health and Welfare Ministry refuted Wednesday a recent report by the Washington Post on elderly Koreans “returning to poverty.”

The ministry said in a press release that, in fact, “Park Geun-hye’s administration is pushing for a comprehensive welfare policy for seniors to boost their income, health and comfort after retirement.” It added, “We have allocated 6.4 trillion won ($6 billion) exclusively for senior welfare, up 48.7 percent from 4.3 trillion won a year earlier.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Washington Post, a major daily in the United States, reported on the graying generation suffering from relative poverty, which the paper called “dark side to South Korea’s 50-year rise to riches.” 

It concluded that the government’s slow move to provide a safety net for the ageing population is exacerbating the situation, citing the fact that Korea’s elderly suicide rate has more than tripled since 2000.

Regarding President Park’s cancellation of her plan in September last year to offer up an extra 200,000 won per month to seniors, the article stated, “President Park was never clear about the funding for her program and was reluctant to raise taxes.”

In response to the article, the ministry stressed that it already presented a bill to offer seniors a basic pension worth 200,000 won starting July, with 5.2 trillion won allocated for the budget.

The government also pledged to add an average of 50,000 jobs annually, explaining it already increased the relevant budget by 66 billion won in a bid to generate 310,000 additional jobs for the elderly this year.

“The Korean government will make every effort to enhance the well-being of its seniors, who greatly contributed to bringing Korea to where it stands now,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post pointed out that Koreans are renowned for high achievement and their spending on education and luxury goods, but half of the nation’s elderly remain poor, the highest rate in the industrialized world.

Portraying Korean seniors as battling to survive, the paper raised alarm about the precarious conditions of the elderly, citing the government polls that show only 37 percent of children in Korea think they should support their parents, a dramatic plunge from 90 percent 15 years ago.  

“Ruthless” competition among young generations who do not have “the psychological space to care for other people,” as well as weakening family values are said to be the reasons behind the diminishing filial piety in Korean society, according to the daily.

By Ock Hyun-ju, Intern reporter (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)

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