By: Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye is being pulled in two directions over what to do regarding a parliamentary bill for reform of the civil service pension.

Park wants to correct what she sees as issues that remain in the proposed legislation, while at the same time not lose any more time to push ahead with her reform agenda.

This has prompted analysts to predict that she will tone down her opposition to the agreed bill, leaving the ruling and opposition parties room to work things out.

Right after the parties reached an agreement on the bill, Saturday, Cheong Wa Dae complained to ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung, blaming the National Assembly for overstepping its authority.

“President Park has entered her third year in office, but there has been nothing to show until now. So she will not be able to repeatedly criticize the bipartisan bill,” said Bae Jong-chan, chief director at political pollster Research and Research.

Given that a task force for the pension reform was set up less than a year ago, the Park government is keen to complete the first of her string of reforms in order to push other measures forward, Bae added.

Hangil Research director Hong Hyeong-sik said that Park cannot waste much time on just one issue.

“Now, she needs to hurry up to wrap up the issue of the pension reform for civil servants and move on to others. Taking the lack of time into account, she will not be able to continuously disagree with the bill,” Hong said.

Along with pension reform, the Park administration has attempted to reform other sectors — labor, education and finance.

The analysts’ opinions were evidenced by Park’s remark during Monday’s meeting with her senior secretaries, when she said that reform of the civil servant pension system was the first step in her reform plans in four major areas.

Last week, the Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) agreed to require civil servants to contribute 9 percent of their monthly salaries, up from the current 7 percent, to their pension fund, on a gradual basis by 2020.

However, Park is opposed to an amendment allowing retired workers subscribing to the National Pension Fund to receive 50 percent — up from 40 percent — of their average monthly salary starting in 2028.

The National Assembly plans to separate this from the civil service pension reform bill.

The “pay more and receive less” agreement is expected to pass parliament today, while the agreement to increase payouts from the NPF will be dealt with by September.

However, amid intensifying public disapproval of the latter agreement due to possible tax increases, it is facing an uncertain future.

Hong said, “People are opposed to a bill adding difficulties to their current lives despite it helping their post-retirement years.”

Citing a public outcry, Bae said that the ruling party may have accepted the proposal from NPAD leader Moon Jae-in after estimating that it is doomed to fail.

“Following the agreement, Park has sparked debate on the issue,” he said.

Last Wednesday, the ruling party unexpectedly won three parliamentary seats in by-elections to pick four lawmakers.

“As a conflict between Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party may have slowed due to the wins, Park was probably in position of reduced strength,” said Bae.

SOURCE: THE KOREA TIMES