December 13, 2016 11:59
President Park Geun-hye may lose her pension if the Constitutional Court gives its blessing to her impeachment.
According to law, presidents who either step down before the end of their tenure or serve prison terms lose all the privileges a former leader of the country is entitled to.
Former presidents receive pensions amounting to 70 percent of their last salary. Park's annual salary is W212 million this year, which means she would get a W148 million pension after her term ends (US$1=W1,170). The money boils down to W12.3 million a month tax-free.
They are also given three secretaries, who are high-level civil servants and paid by the state, and a driver. Park is apparently hoping to keep on Lee Jae-man, Jeong Ho-seong and Ahn Bong-geun, who have been with her since she became a lawmaker 18 years ago and were Cheong Wad Dae secretaries until their recent disgrace. But Lee, Jeong and Ahn may end up in jail.
Ex-presidents receive free medical treatments in state-run hospitals like Seoul National University Hospital, and their treatments in private hospitals are paid for by the state.
Former presidents are also given an office at a location of their choosing, while the taxpayer foots the rent and other expenses.
When private groups pursue projects to commemorate the achievements of a former president, the government covers 30 to 50 percent of related expenses. They are also subject to 24-hour protection from a 10-member Cheong Wa Dae security team, assigned for up to 15 years once they retire, after which the police takes over. There is also secure housing furnished by the state.
But none of these privileges, except some security detail, apply to presidents who are impeached, go to prison, seek asylum abroad to dodge investigation like Syngman Rhee, or relinquish their Korean citizenship. Even if Park manages to avoid impeachment, she still faces an investigation and trial once her term ends.
The independent counsel is considering charges of taking bribes on top of abuse of authority and extortion. If she is found guilty, she is highly likely to go to prison, which means she forfeits her privileges and will have to fend for herself financially.
Former President Lee Myung-bak enjoys the full benefits of retired leaders, having narrowly escaped prosecution over the scandal-ridden four-rivers project. He gets a W12 million monthly pension and is assisted by three secretaries and a chauffeured vehicle. His office in the affluent Gangnam area costs the national coffers W13 million a month in rent.
Former first ladies Lee Hee-ho, Son Myung-soon and Kwon Yang-sook receive around W9 million a month, which is 70 percent of their late husbands' pension payments, while being assisted by a secretary and driver provided by the government. The government pays around W2 billion a year to support the three former first ladies and ex-president Lee.
Lee has been active since his term ended and been protected by a security detail on no fewer than 2,000 occasions in the two years since his retirement, including 15 overseas assignments for the Cheong Wa Dae bodyguards. That boils down to three requests for protection a day, which is five times more than Park needed as the incumbent leader. Over the same period, former first lady Lee Hee-ho received 820 security protection services, and Kwon 266 services.
Former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo served prison terms and are not eligible for pensions or offices, but they live in precarious luxury, allegedly thanks to money they stole while in office.
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