South Korean seniors will finally receive their first payout under the new basic pension program on Friday after a series of disputes over eligibility and destitute recipients.
The revised program is to benefit the poorest 70 percent of Koreans aged 65 and older by giving them a monthly allowance ranging from 100,000 won ($98) to 200,000 won, depending on their income level.
Among the 4.1 million eligible recipients, 93.1 percent will be given the full benefit of 200,000 won for a single person and 320,000 won for a married couple, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday.
The revised program has been a source of concern for destitute seniors who are recipients of the basic living allowance, which is given to individuals who make less than what the government has designated “the minimum cost of living,” 603,403 won a month.
As those who make more than the minimum cost of living will automatically be cut from the allowance, receiving the basic pension payout, which is regarded as additional income, may result in a disadvantage.
In response to the situation, the Welfare Ministry announced on Thursday that those who lose their basic living benefits ― as a result of receiving the basic pension payout ― will be given an allowance for medical bills, electricity and telephone for two years.
Some 390,000 seniors who receive basic living benefits will be given the basic pension allowance, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, some 23,000 seniors have been told that they are ineligible for the revised pension program, due to their ownership of expensive vehicles or memberships to pricey recreational facilities, such as golf clubs.
Those who live on their child’s property that costs more than 600 million won have been also excluded from the benefits.
Earlier this month, the ministry announced that some 30,000 seniors have been cut from the revised pension allowance. They announced on Thursday that 7,000 now have been included in the program, after having one-on-one interviews to once again review their income status and eligibility.
Some 4.13 million have benefited from the former old-age pension program, which paid a monthly allowance of 97,000 won to the poorest 70 percent of senior citizens.
The Welfare Ministry said it will run a special employment program for those who are ineligible for the allowance or whose monthly benefit is less than 100,000 won. Applications will open in August and those selected will be given an opportunity to work in the nation’s community service sector, depending on their skills and past work experience.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)