The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Shameless compensation

Democratic Party pushes bill to benefit children of former democracy activists

By Korea Herald

Published : July 25, 2022 - 05:30

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The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea is pushing again a bill that will give college admission and employment benefits to children of former democracy activists.

Last week, 164 of 169 Democratic Party members of the National Assembly signed a document that expressed support for the bill. In addition, 11 National Assembly members of parties allied with the Democratic Party, including six members of the Justice Party, signed it as well. The party secured a large majority to pass the bill even without the consent of the ruling People Power Party.

The bill expands compensation for democratization activities to those related to struggles against the authoritarian system of the 1970s and the June 1987 Democracy Movement. Benefits will also be given to their spouses and children.

The bill supports medical and educational expenses for their spouses and children. It also allows their children admission to colleges and universities through special selection procedures. It offers tuition support for their children from middle school to university. They are granted extra points in recruitment tests for government agencies, public institutions and companies.

Either a former democracy activist who is qualified for compensation or one of his or her family members can borrow money from the government at long-term low interest. They will also have priority in purchasing new housing when demand for housing exceeds supply.

The party had proposed similar bills in 2020 and 2021, but withdrew them amid strong public criticism.

Now it is pushing one of the bills again. This time, most of its National Assembly members are united behind it.

People are leveling criticisms such as, “Are democracy activists a privileged class?” and “What’s a democratization movement got to do with college entrance?”

In college entrance examinations, fair competition is the most critical principle. In this context, many people condemned the admission scandal involving the daughter of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk.

It is problematic to require government agencies, public institutions and companies to give children of former democracy activists extra points in recruitment tests. This seriously undermines fair competition. University graduates have a hard time landing decent jobs.

Those who pride themselves on having fought dictatorship for the sake of all citizens are revealing their avarice and selfishness when it comes to issues related to their children. Special favors for their children goes against fairness and justice. It is far from the democracy that they fought for. Furthermore, financial resources for compensation come from the pockets of taxpayers. It is shameless for former democracy activists-turned-lawmakers of the party to push a bill to benefit former fellow activists and their families.

Nearly 5,000 people of democratization merits, including those related to the May 18, 1980 Gwangju Uprising, already received compensation under existing laws.

Now the Democratic Party seeks to expand the scope of those recognized for their meritorious democracy movement actions and extend compensation to families of democratization-related figures.

As a matter of fact, after Korean society was democratized, they received preferential treatment just for the reason of playing active roles in the democracy movement. Connected by their common career of fighting against dictatorship, they have held or currently hold many high-ranking posts -- the president of South Korea, National Assembly members, Cabinet ministers, chief executives of state enterprises and the like.

Some of them who were elected later as heads of local governments supported an array of civic groups run by former fellow activists.

Nonetheless, unsatisfied with existing compensation, they are trying to pass on preferential treatment for their children.

In the days of dictatorship, all people would have longed for democracy. Democratization is an accomplishment by the people and for the people. It is not the exclusive property of a certain group.

Former democracy activists have already been compensated. Demand for the expansion of compensation to their children is less convincing and unfair. The Democratic Party’s push for the bill will only arouse antipathy toward those who sacrificed themselves to democracy movements.