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Basic pension program begins amid disputes

New monthly pension a dilemma for seniors living in poverty

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Published : 2014-06-30 19:50
Updated : 2014-06-30 19:51

The newly introduced basic pension for those over 65 is taking effect this month, but the program is a source of concern for destitute seniors who may lose their basic living benefits once they apply for it.

The “basic pension” program, which is one of President Park Geun-hye’s key pledges, is to benefit the poorest 70 percent of Koreans aged 65 or older by giving them a monthly allowance ranging from 100,000 won to 200,000 won depending on their income level.

But for seniors who are recipients of the basic living allowance, which is given to destitute individuals who make less than what the government designated “the minimum cost of living,” 603,403 won ($596) a month, applying for the basic pension may result in a disadvantage.

Once they receive the monthly allowance ranging from 100,000 won to 200,000 won, the basic pension payment will be regarded as additional income.

This may make them ineligible for basic living benefits, as those whose monthly income increases to more than the minimum cost of living will automatically be cut from the allowance.

The basic living benefits include a TV license, electricity allowance and an allowance for telephone and medical bills.

“For those who will lose their eligibility for basic living benefits after applying for basic pension, we are offering an allowance for medical bills for two years,” Oh Seong-il from the Ministry of Health and Welfare told The Korea Herald.

“We are also thinking of providing other benefits for those who will lose their basic living allowance after applying for the basic pension.”

The National Assembly approved the basic pension bill in May, after a three-month political battle between Park’s administration and the main opposition party.

President Park had initially vowed to offer 200,000 won to every senior citizen regardless of income level. The opposition party criticized her for deceiving the public after the government announced that the pension would only benefit the poorest 70 percent of seniors.

The first installment of the basic pension program will be given out on July 25.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)

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