Old-Age Benefits Start Later as Koreans Live Longer

      June 25, 2022 08:25

      The age when Koreans are considered elderly and entitled to preferential treatment is rising, and the general feeling now seems to be that nobody under 70 is likely to be decrepit.

      One 68-year-old was surprised recently when he visited Bulguk Temple in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province and read a sign that read "free admission for senior citizens over 70."

      "When I came here last year, I got in for free, but this year, the age had been raised to 70," he said. "I know that the elderly population is growing and I suppose the age standard for free subway rides will also be raised soon."

      The rise in the free-admission age is not government policy but a decision the Jogye Order made in January.

      Korea provides various welfare benefits to people over 65, but the government faces an increasing fiscal burden as society ages, which has led to growing calls to raise the seniority age to 70.

      The move by the Jogye Order has drawn both support and criticism, with proponents saying the move reflects reality while critics argue the Buddhist sect should abide by the law of the land.

      The Jogye Order says it does not receive government support to make up for losses from free admission for senior citizens. By law, the government makes up for lost revenues at public facilities that adhere to its own cutoff age, but Buddhist temples are not public facilities. A Jogye Order spokesman said, "More than 5 million visitors are exempt from entrance fees at temples across the country."

      According to Statistics Korea, the country is expected to become an "ultra-aged society" in 2025, when senior citizens account for more than 20 percent of the population. Seoul Metro loses W200 billion a year from free passes for the elderly (US$1=W1,298). But opposition to raising the cutoff age has prevented the subway from changing the rules.

      Chung Jae-hoon at Seoul Women's University said, "We have to raise the seniority age in a graying society to lower the burden on the economically active population." But a staffer at the Korea Senior Citizens Association said, "No full social consensus has been reached yet, so it's inappropriate to change the standard which is guaranteed by law."

      • Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com
      Previous Next
      All Headlines Back to Top