By Jang You-chul
A Subway Complimentary Ticket-An Anachronistic System
Under South Korea's Welfare of Older Persons Act, senior citizens aged 65 or older are allowed to use public facilities run by the state or local governments for free or at a discounted price. Based on this law, a subway complimentary ticket appeared in 1984. A subway complimentary ticket is a ticket that enables senior citizens aged 65 or older to use the subway for free. The complimentary subway tickets were designed to improve the welfare of the elderly. However, contrary to the original purpose of the program, the subway complimentary ticket system has ended up causing the subway’s operation deficit to increase every year. These deficits eventually pass on more burdens to citizens under 65 years of age. In fact, Korea is the only country in the world that allows free subway access to all senior citizens aged 65 and older. The time has come to face the fact and recognize that the subway complimentary tickets program should be changed.
First of all, the deficit caused by subway complimentary tickets is serious. According to the Seoul Transportation Corp., the city's subway operating deficit was 385 billion won in 2016. Of the total, the deficit incurred by subway complimentary tickets is 275 billion won, accounting for about 71 percent of the deficit. On top of that, the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to rise to 15.7 percent in 2020 and 24.3 percent in 2030. As a result, the subway operating deficit will increase. To address this deficit, the Seoul Metropolitan Transportation Corporation. is also considering raising the basic subway fare in the city by around 200 won. The additional financial burden caused by welfare for the elderly will be passed on to the young people. This impression has led to a backlash from the younger generation and is now expanding into a generational conflict. Also, the subway complimentary ticket is the product of an anachronistic system, a system that has not been revised since 1984. Back in 1984, the percentage senior citizens aged 65 and older in Korea was only about 4 percent, so the financial burden was not much. Over time, however, Korea's aging population has rapidly progressed, which has led to financial burdens that were not the case when the first revision was made. As times have changed, the subway system must also change. Of course, since there are elderly people who are burdened by subway fares, some part of the systems should be maintained but discount rates should be applied differently. Moreover, the age range of complimentary rights should be narrowed. In fact, in Japan, discount rates are applied differently depending on the level of income of applicants among those aged 70 or older. The United States also applies different discount rates to senior citizens aged 65 and older.
As such, Korea's subway complimentary ticket system is anachronistic policy. Providing free subways transportation to all senior citizens aged 65 or older is too financially burdensome. It would be fortunate if the burden ends up just being burdensome, but the burden has spread to the younger generation, which has led to dissatisfaction. South Korea's subway complimentary ticket policy may be one way to realize the welfare for the elderly, but it is not the best way to ultimately promote national happiness. Applying a discount rate or narrowing the scope of preferential treatment would solve the deficit problem to some extent, while achieving some degree of welfare for the elderly. The Korean government should improve the anachronistic Korean subway system as soon as possible.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >