| There are controversies over the basic pension system, a new social security system for the elderly to be implemented in July. Nearly 400,000 elderly recipients of basic livelihood security benefits are entitled to 200,000 won (195 U.S. dollars) in basic pension funds starting in July. However, the same amount will be deducted from the livelihood security benefits. Therefore, the total amount of benefits the recipients receive from the government will remain unchanged.
This year`s minimum living expenses amount to 603,403 won (588.40 dollars) a month per one-person household. The government pays 380,531 won (371.07 dollars) of cash in livelihood benefits after deducting other expenses provided in kind such as medical services, house rents and maintenance expenses.
The government plans to include basic pension funds to be paid from July into the incomes of lowest-income elderly citizens who are entitled to basic livelihood security. Those who receive 200,000 in basic pension will have the same amount deducted from their existing livelihood benefits. If basic pension recipients` recognized incomes increase, their total income is higher than the minimum living expenses even if the government pays less livelihood benefits. Therefore, the government deducts the amount of increases in incomes from the benefits. After all, basic pension recipients will end up receiving the same amount of money regardless of the basic pension benefits.
Many civic groups championing welfare protest that elderly citizens in the lowest income brackets are excluded from the benefits of basic pensions. They urged the government Wednesday to not include the basic pension incomes when it calculates basic livelihood security recipients` recognized incomes.
The Ministry of Welfare opposes such a proposal. "If basic livelihood benefits are not counted as recognized incomes, basic livelihood security recipients` disposable incomes (livelihood benefits + basic pension) will be higher than those in the lower income brackets," a ministry official said. In that case, basic pension recipients would want to stay on their recipient status, while lower-income people would try to join the ranks of recipients.
"If Korea provided sufficient welfare benefits for basic pension recipients, there would be no problem if duplicate basic pensions are not paid," said Kim Yeon-myeong, a professor of social welfare at Chung-Ang University. "However, the government is paying basic security recipients too little benefits for maintaining a decent livelihood. It is problematic to cut livelihood benefits just because they receive basic pensions."