The government said on Sunday it will exclude dual citizenship holders who live abroad for more than 60 days a year from the basic pension program that starts in July.
The Health and Welfare Ministry is set to provide a monthly allowance of between 100,000 won and 200,000 won ($97 to $195) to the poorest 70 percent of Koreans aged 65 or older. In its previous plan, the ministry said it would not give the welfare benefits to seniors who hold dual citizenships and live less than six months per year in Korea. The previous plan was devised in accordance with the nationality act that bans discrimination against all dual citizens.
The ministry, however, ended up modifying the earlier version in regard to dual citizens as it became concerned about growing public opposition against its initial plan. Disputes have been intensifying over the scope of pension recipients, with some questioning whether it is fair to provide equal benefits to dual citizenship holders who may have spent most of their lives overseas and may not have been entitled to pay taxes.
The welfare ministry said it would determine which dual citizens will be qualified for the benefits by tracking their entry and departure records in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice.
The National Assembly approved the basic pension bill earlier this month after a long political battle over the scale of the benefits and fine points involving the national pension fund.
Rival parties locked horns over the bill as the government came up with a final plan that has been seen as step back from President Park Geun-hye’s campaign pledge. Park vowed to universally dole out 200,000 won to all seniors regardless of their income level, citing the country’s high poverty rate among the elderly.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)