Do you remember the argument about the vote
Do you remember the argument about the vote on free meals for young students?
Welfare is a big concept. It has been quite misunderstood in Korea for a long time. Koreans have rarely discussed what a welfare state means. What is welfare? For whom does it stand? The debate about this subject has just started; as a citizen, as a student, and as a lawful voter, you should comprehend clearly the ambiguous perception of welfare.
Selective Welfare versus Universal Welfare
n Selective Welfare
This is the concept that provides an intensive welfare budget to specific poor, needy persons.
Selective Welfare can raise the quality of service.
Dose the rich CEO’s grandchild need a free meal? It is natural for some people to doubt the efficiency of wasteful universal welfare which is provided to people in the upper class. It is said that an intensive high-quality welfare service is valid when it selects those who are actually thirsty for the support, which is practical.
Excessive welfare service brings moral hazard.
Of course, it is righteous that the services go to needy persons. However, a universal welfare state may derail reasonable economic order. Who wants to be diligent and earn money in a universal welfare system? Some people can abuse a loophole in the system. Let’s recall the term ‘welfare queen’. It is said that this unnecessary service discourages the will for working with low productivity and that it cannot solve unemployment.
n Universal Welfare
This is a wide concept that expands the welfare service for all people by being taxed on their pay.
Korea has available budget.
To provide the service for all people naturally requires more budget and causes the taxes to rise. However, it is said that there is a way to solve the high tax problem by using a cumulative taxation and efficient budget compilation.
“Development-First and Distribution-Later” ends now.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when the government built a better economic life under the military dictatorships, it might have been valid for people to focus on development first. The dominant view was the logic that the surplus in development would provide for welfare service later. Korea has beyond question been well off. However, has there been any correct distribution in order, so far? None. When will the distribution proceed at all? Now is the time to do it.
Why is it necessary to offer welfare services to a rich CEO’s grandchild?
Why should welfare be universal? A service which doesn’t satisfy the middle class can’t have high quality. Contrary to governmental purpose, a middle class unsatisfied with it can buy such a service in the market. The service then becomes worse in quality, naturally. It therefore cannot resolve the inequality. The key point of universal welfare is the very structure in which all people give and take: gradual taxation and universal benefit. Who wants to pay tax with nothing paid back?
–No one can force anybody to have such an obligation. In addition, almost an absolute majority of people in Korea are not free from poverty. The universal welfare can yet guarantee minimum livelihood to all the potential victims.
Kim Min-ho, the Dept. of Political Science & Diplomacy
“I stand for universal welfare. It is the right time to distribute what we’ve made to the people. To solve the polarization of wealth requires a heavy middle class. That’s what welfare has to do. I see that the awareness amongst people has changed. Rich people are asked to return their earnings to the society. We can’t forget welfare is relative with unemployment among the young and with the expensive tuition. I think students need to pay more attention to our society and the policy, participating in it by ‘voting’. I was astonished by the power of the vote.”
Choi Won-gyu, professor, the Dept. of Social Welfare
“Welfare is a sort of safeguard from social danger, which may happen to ‘anyone’. Since all people confront disaster, I see that universal welfare has many merits. It has no labeling effect and can save huge administrative costs for selecting who a needy person is. There are variable spectrums in welfare. Korea has less understanding of social progress. To establish an effective welfare plan, the government needs a long-term perspective - Korea shifts its policy easily – and needs to organize a strong party of laborers, which is the driving force with welfare.
On one hand, Koreans have a negative attitude toward raising tax, but on the other hand, people started to get a taste of the welfare: the medical insurance and the free meal.”
Nobody doubts Korea now stands before the threshold of being an advanced country. However, it is a fact that Korea has the least welfare budget compared to other OECD countries. Korea has just started to provide welfare properly. The awareness among people has grown as much as Korea has developed.
Even though we may know how it works in detail we cannot be ignorant of what circumstantial factors Korea has faced: some peculiarities - divided country, particularly high dependence on trade, low birth rate. For that reason, Korea cannot conform to fine models of Northern European welfare states. The question is if the system or service is really appropriate to the society and communities.
The answer could be a ‘Korean-style Welfare State’, which would be done by considering the Korean uniqueness! We can then start to debate this matter toward the future of Korea.