The following is the sixth in a series of articles on the major tasks and key members of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s transition team. ― Ed.
The presidential transition committee’s division on employment and welfare is assigned to resolve conflicting opinions over President-elect Park Geun-hye’s pledges on major welfare expansion and offer the most feasible ways to turn them into actual policies.
An expansion of the country’s social welfare system is a key agenda for Park who promised to usher in a new era of happiness during the presidential election. However, her vision that requires massive public funds is being met with growing opposition from incumbent officials citing budget constraints and even from some taxpayers concerned about a possible tax hike.
Park vowed to provide free day care, an overhaul of the nation’s pension system to increase subsidy for the elderly and medical support for low-income families and also for the elderly. Halving the cost of college tuition and providing full medical cost for four major diseases are also included in her welfare package.
The president-elect has estimated the cost of her welfare programs at 135 trillion won ($130 billion). However, the Ministry of Health and Welfare warned that the government needs to secure an extra 50 trillion won for the next five years, almost double the 28.7 trillion won Park and her aides have estimated. The incumbent government officials reportedly have already suggested an alternative plan that limits some of her welfare proposals.
The subcommittee on employment and welfare at the handover team is tasked with narrowing the gap between the two while defending Park’s welfare vision at the same time.
The subcommittee is headed by Choi Sung-jae, professor emeritus of social welfare at Seoul National University.
Choi has supported Park since 2011 when she proposed a revision of welfare law at the National Assembly. The 67-year-old scholar joined Park’s presidential campaign and led a campaigning team on welfare consisted of 26 lawmakers and university professors.
He is the one who brought and designed the idea of a “welfare service tailored for all age groups” that became one of Park’s major campaign pledges and succeeded in winning votes from senior citizens in the election.
Choi is known as one of the nation’s top scholars on welfare administration and welfare for the elderly and has served various posts including at the Korean Gerontological Society and the Korean Academy of Social Welfare.
He graduated from the department of social services at SNU in 1970 and received his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in the United States. He started teaching at SNU in 1986 but retired last year.
Members of the subcommittee include Rep. Ahn Chong-bum, one of key members of Park’s presidential campaign team and Ahn Sang-hoon, welfare professor at Seoul National University, a former student to Choi.
The scholar-turned-lawmaker Ahn is known as Park’s “idea man” as he succeeded in fleshing out campaign pledges on economy and welfare based on Park’s political philosophy. He suggested key campaign policies on budget, welfare, medical services and housing. The former economic professor at Sungkyunkwan University was elected to the National Assembly last year by proportional representation and is known to have built deep trust with the president-elect.
SNU professor Ahn was a former student of the subcommittee head Choi at SNU. He followed Choi last year and joined Park’s campaign team on welfare. The 44-year-old scholar reportedly has many ideas on relating job creation with the welfare sector. Ahn received his Ph.D. from Uppsala University in Sweden under the teachings of Sven Hort, a world-renowned scholar on the Nordic welfare model. Hort, recommended by Ahn, is currently in Seoul to start teaching at SNU.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org