Netizens Discuss the State of Welfare in Korea

This article presents a compilation of a few posts from the Facebook page Liberalism as a snippet into welfare debates that were recently sparked again by the “free school lunch” controversy. Keep in mind that many netizen comments in this article were written with heavy sarcasm, which won’t be pointed out every time to our readers.

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From Liberalism:

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[Full text of slide twelve:]
Real comparison can be made with countries that have at least 50 million people. Countries like Myanmar, South Africa, Thailand, Congo or traditionally developed countries such as the UK, Italy, France, and Germany. It is mere propaganda to compare Korea to countries with small populations and abundant natural resources, in an attempt to create complaints. Korea’s living standards used to be worse than the Philippines. But Korea developed to be on par with Italy. Compared to other countries with comparable populations, Korea’s welfare system is developing well.

Comments from Liberalism:

Dear admin of Liberalism, why don’t you stay neutral these days? Korea is backwards in welfare. This kind of article is very inappropriate. We cannot have proper welfare all because of large corporations and rich people. I don’t think it is due to a lack of natural resources. It is false propaganda that we used to be poorer than the Philippines so correct that please. I’m disappointed lately. Don’t post biased articles without facts. I’m considering unsubscribing from your page. I hope you delete this until I come back after playing three rounds of League of Legends. The reason why I spend time to write this long comment is because I’ve seen comments getting the most up-votes just because they are long. I will be back after playing some LoL. Please make this comment the most voted one. [Translator’s note: This comment contains sarcasm in hypothetical criticism against the article and intentional typos to mimic a certain political figure’s speech style.]


We don’t have oil all because of Park Geun-hye, you know? What a shame that you don’t know it better!!

Junhyeok Kim:

50 million population, freaking tiny land, no oil, and not many renowned tourist spots as in China, the US, Japan, Australia, or Europe. Aren’t we honestly getting enough welfare benefits compared to our tax rates? I think Korea is great because we get this much welfare despite the unfavorable circumstances.


For real, please stop demanding “free welfare”. The nation will go under because of those short-sighted people.

Scott Lee:

You should add one more thing. Taxation in Norway…it’s really scary. Even a country like that still needs to tax a lot to maintain their welfare system. Free welfare? It’s as realistic as men getting pregnant.


In short, welfare costs for us comes directly from our tax money in our country with no natural resources.


In Korea, there are 20 million barrels of oil, too. Don’t you know that the National Intelligence Service is hiding this fact to satisfy their own greed? If Moon Jae-in becomes President soon and pours money into North Korea, Korea can be peacefully united under the North Korean regime and we will get welfare benefits from exporting oil.


This is all the dinosaurs’ fault… If they had died in Korea, Korea could’ve been an oil-rich country and we would be enjoying such an easy life. We are living like this because dinosaurs died in some weird places. Dinosaurs who lived in the Korean peninsula, you SoBs… All you fucking bastards did was leaving footprints and bailing. It’s all because of you dinosaurs…

Jeon Yuchan:

Their population is 5 million? I don’t care. Just give us welfare like in Norway. Ah, it is possible in Norway because of oil? I don’t care. Just give us free welfare.

Lee Chiho:

Time to re-evaluate Oh Se-hoon. [Former mayor of Seoul]


It is not just comparing. Sure, there are some people who blindly do that. But it is also not right to criticize just looking at those countries as references. I think we can at least regard them as an example. It doesn’t mean we have to follow their way. Just that such cases exist. Also, I think one of the reasons why Norway could become like that was their endeavor to achieve a high degree of social transparency, one of the best in the world. Isn’t this necessary for Korea that ranked at the bottom for transparency among the OECD countries? Also, well-planned welfare can be very beneficial. Let’s not even discuss trashy policies like free school lunch. Didn’t you say before that the only resources we have are human resources? Then wouldn’t it be right to set our education policy straight first? As I said in another thread, we should make diverse jobs viable and train the homeless to work. However, some parts of education policy are designed to promote discrimination against certain jobs, which undermines this diversity. Also, we should improve our childcare policy. Not excessively but adequately. Everything in moderation is good.


Then for sure, there would be people who rant about how Korea spends so little money on welfare among the OECD countries. Unlike the other OECD countries, Korea has no natural or tourism resources. We also spend an astronomical amount of money on defense against North Korea. It would be weird if Korean spent so much money on welfare. In these circumstances, welfare in Korea is decent. However, some people compare Korea to countries like Norway and Sweden that have abundant natural resources and small populations like 5 million, tsk tsk.


This site always just shows some extreme examples to make a point and ends there. I get that we can’t simply compare Korea to Norway, but the ultimate claim here is that Korea’s welfare is decent in Korea’s environment and conditions. Where is the basis for that?

From Liberalism:

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Comments from Liberalism:
Yong Whuy Kwon:

Chung Mong-joon Jr. who knows our national trait and Mayor Park Won-soon who doesn’t.

Lee KangJoo:

They curse at President Park so much for increasing taxes. Yet they remain silent about someone who blindly drains tax money.

Carl F Lee:

If you criticize Park Won-soon, you are just irrational. You are just a stubborn idiot. You are just an Ilbe bug. You just come from the upper echelon. You are just lying…Just whatever bad. Who cares about the reason? It is blasphemy to criticize him. He is such a saint who should not be put down. Even pesticide turns good when it is related to him. His parachute appointment is righteous. Everything Oh Se-hoon did well is all Park Won-soon’s achievement. The Korea Housing Corporation’s loan that was already planned to come in was due to Park Won’soon’s effort. When our Mayor Park does volunteer work carrying briquettes, only his face becomes dirty while his hands remain clean.

Sunwoo Hwang:

I’m tired of his commoner cos-play…Unfortunately, Chung Mong-joon Jr. is on a winning rampage in this season, too… This first morning in a long holiday break, I’m reminded of the class president fellow who gave out hamburgers to us in elementary school. Everyone, get lots of welfare.

Bongkeun Kim:

Chung Mong-joon Jr. pointed out the state of public awareness and faulty national trait while Park Won-soon who is also well aware of it exploited it to his advantage. That’s why he is such a scary person. If you look at his political steps, he does things that make him look good rather than working for citizens. For example, he gives out warm meals and sleeping bags to the homeless when he should help them get motivated and do some work on their own. Why would they ever work then? He tries to implement these wacky welfare programs and who pays the tax money for that? If we have more and more people like him in our country, it is only a matter of time before we become like Sweden or Greece. Isn’t North Korea at the top when it comes to unconditional welfare and free stuff? It seems there are increasingly more people who undermine our nation established by the hard-working generation who achieved industrialization. The mayor seems to maintain a close relationship with the UPP rep Lee Jeong-hee and his moves are going more and more ‘North’.

SangChun Park:

You really made your post frustrate readers effectively. I completely agree.


If you see that ignorant people got fooled by this bastard’s cos-play and let him serve two consecutive terms, it seems absurd to just acknowledge them for having different values and perspectives.

OhYoung Hwang:

Park Won-soon is a disaster for Seoul.


I really hate to see that monkey bastard.


Wow, when we heard that Seoul city will install ondol [heated floors] and give out free smart phones for the homeless, to a friend I was like “Wow, at this rate, wouldn’t the city also pay their rent with tax money?” as a joke. That has become a reality…kekeke

Paul TaeMin Jin:

It seems like we are seeing the US in the 1920s. While it is a problem that some politicians waste our tax money for the policies implemented as they please and they should be held accountable, I don’t think he is a commie.

Carl F Lee:

Seoul citizens, stay alert not to pitifully miss any chance to get back your tax money through abrupt welfare giveaways. Delay paying various taxes, fines, rents, tuition, etc. for at least 3 months. Make sure to attend any events that the Mayor of Seoul attends. Especially go to those events with the phrases including ‘sharing’, ‘youth’, ‘good’, ‘hope’, ‘green’, ‘half-price’, ‘twice’, and ‘alienated’. Attend them steadily and keep whining. If the Mayor feels like it, he will give out billions of won on the spot. Good payers cannot take advantage of this. Only these noobs make such a mistake.

Geun Woo Kim:

Sure, give us welfare just as much taxes as we have paid. But please do not embezzle or waste our tax money doing pointless things such as digging the ground [Four Rivers Project] or natural resources diplomacy.

From Liberalism:

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Comments from Liberalism:


It seems the problems will be solved as soon as B dies.


You made a good analogy for the free school lunch issue. But I don’t think they would understand it even if you put it like that…

김 동영:

My thoughts about the common arguments from those who support free school lunch.

1. The government wasted tons of money for the Four Rivers Project and natural resources diplomacy. Why make a fuss about mere kids’ lunches now?

Let’s assume that it all failed. So what? We might be able to provide free school lunch for a few years with that money. But isn’t that already spilt milk? Is there any way to get the money back? What about free school lunch? We are currently spending our national budget for that. The argument has no practical point.

2. It will work as long as politicians stop being corrupt.

Has corruption existed just for the last couple of decades? It’s been there for a few thousands of years. It doesn’t cease to exist despite our efforts such as implementing audits. We should definitely eradicate corruption, but it is a very difficult task that needs a lot more time. In the current situation, it is hard to see improvements in a short period of time. If someone is sick with 42c degree temperature, his doctor should first give him medicine that works fast. However, according to those guys’ argument, it’s like just giving him advice that he should not eat too much fatty food and should warm his body and take enough rest.

3. Why are you trying to make kids starve?

When there was no free lunch for everyone, the kids who really needed help were already getting help for a long time. Then, some greedy people messed it up. Now the kids eat lunch that is like some livestock feed.

4. Europe is like this and that.

Go to Europe then. This is Korea. Does Korea have lots of natural resources and capital? We have a different environment from them in the first place. There is a saying that if a crow-tit tries to walk like a stork, he will break his legs. We may solve some problems if we apply tax rates on par with Europe. However, you saw how people reacted to tax increases this time, didn’t you? Everyone was saying “Common people are suffering to death…Increase taxes only on the rich”. High-income earners already pay up to 38% in income taxes. Will they remain silent if taxes increase only on them? Isn’t it exploitative? And if that happens, consumption and investment by high-income earners could shrink.

Carl F Lee:

Now, I wait for the Enlightened Citizens who say it would’ve been all okay only if there was no Four Rivers Project. They wouldn’t want to answer my questions. How is one-time project budget comparable to a recurring welfare budget? Why did Roh Mu-hyun and Kim Dae-jung administrations not implement free school lunch when they didn’t even do anything like the Four Rivers Project then? Kya, I lost. I can’t win over their enlightened logic.


It is something that shows politics is ruined when they appeal to emotions instead of rationality.

Jaewon Lee:

Honestly, nothing is free in this world. Unless some aliens bring apples to Earth from the outer space, everything has a price. So it doesn’t work when they approach these matters with emotions.


Such a good post after a long while. I like a well-thought-out post like this much better than copy-and-paste posts from other sites, Free Space or Joyride, which often make your page get flak honestly. I hope you keep making more good posts.

Yeonseo Kim:

No matter how clearly you explain it like this, you can’t make those blind and deaf people understand it.


Now, let’s hear what those fashionable leftists [who think it is merely cool to pose as leftist] have to say with regards to Lee Myung-bak’s Four Rivers Project and natural resources diplomacy.

Travis Fresco Ryoo:

They should give apologies rather than apples. [‘Apology’ and ‘apple’ in Korean have the same pronunciation.]

Lenny Choi:

The persisting problem is that although they are supposed to understand two if you teach them one, they can’t even digest one. It’s pointless for those who would spew ignorant comments like “Then can’t we just impose more taxes on the rich for free school lunch?”

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  • takasar1

    well…let’s be honest, europe, with the exception of norway and holland isn’t exactly teeming with natural resources itself. there are very few countries that are blessed with significant conventional (uae, iran, russia, SA) or unconventional (USA, china, argentina) resource potential. there aren’t any in europe and the idiot comparing korea, a country of 50 million to tiny norway is stupid beyond belief. the only countries korea can be compared with reasonably are france, italy, germany, spain and maybe japan, benchmarks which koreans will likely comfortably reach within a decade.

    i’d say the more pressing issue, rather than imposing blanket welfare, should be the implementation of policies designed to alleviate elderly poverty. in fact, throughout this decade, that and economic reform should be among the most pressing concerns. otherwise korea could end up like japan, but with a bunch of poor pensioners, without the luxury of forcing said poor pensioners to buy government debt.

    • Chucky3176

      France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan weren’t Third World countries in 1980. South Korea was. Those countries you mention had enough time to sort out their policies on welfare. However South Korea is still trying to find the agreeable ground because it got rich too quick, and the standards expected by its people have also risen along with the living standards. Except for Germany, economies of France, Italy, and Spain are in a mess as their economic competitiveness has been steadily declining over the years, just as countries like South Korea rose. South Korea now exports more than France, Italy, Britain, or Spain, who’s populations are far bigger, which tells you how well those welfare nanny states are doing. Not very well at all.

      The free lunch program has been a complete disaster. Much of the free lunch with poor quality food are thrown out, uneaten. The money that was supposed to help repair and maintain school facilities were diverted to free lunch programs. Instead, they should have took that money, and beefed up the welfare to those elderly people who is out of the state pension loop.

      • takasar1

        i’m not comparing korea to those countries. i’m saying that those countries, based on demography (and lets face it, human resources are by far the most important), are korea’s current contemporaries. we can’t keep comparing korea to ethipioa and uganda now, this isn’t 1980. yeah but the reason for korea (and japan, china & asian tiger’s) growth was that they followed from an established rule book written by others. today, even i, someone with a mere bachelors in economics, could advise pakistan/india/nigeria/brazil on the path to prosperity. not to take anything away from the achievement but the rule book to industrialization was written by the british/germans/americans a century earlier. not only that but the countries above had to pretty much pick themselves up after 1950, seeing as they wasted 50 years killing each other.

        as for economic problems proving/disproving the utility of a nanny-state. i’d like to remind you that the US and the UK also can be called ‘nanny’ states, considering they spend around 25% of gdp on welfare and they seem to be doing ok as of now. as is germany. the med-club have their own economic problems, as does south korea. they all possess unique problems, i don’t see how ‘welfare’ can be blamed for their ills. these countries don’t have a choice, especially germany and italy, considering their aging populations.

        well, yeah.

      • suppertime

        Free school lunch for poor students is an o.k. idea. A better idea is instead of having to arduously and humiliatingly prove you’re poor, just give free lunches to everyone and collect a little extra tax to pay for it.

        • redwhitedude

          What they should have done is subsidized the meals not make it all free. People do not like to stick out and let people know that they are poor if you make it for poor only. Just subsidize it for everybody.

      • blo

        France – 66 million
        Italy – 59 million
        Britain – 64 million
        Spain – 47 million

        Hardly “far bigger”. Basically all in a similar population bracket as Korea, and Spain is less.
        Koreans seem to have this cognitive dissonance about the size of other countries. That all other countries are huge, full of resources, with massive populations. While Korea is tiny, barren and with a small population.
        For Korea’s size it has a decent size. And if it ever reunifies it will have some size too.

        • Chucky3176

          South Korea – 50 million. Except for Spain, all the rest are at least 10 to 16 million bigger. Koreans think it’s tiny, barren, and too many population, because it’s true.

          • takasar1

            same can be said for other countries too. europe isn’t exactly a resource hotspot and there are plenty of countries with a higher population density than korea.

          • Chucky3176

            Name a few. I can only count Bangladesh and Taiwan. The rest are all just city states with small populations.


        • Chucky3176

          Geographically speaking, South Korea is about one third of France, half of Italy, half of Britain, and a third of Spain. It is true, those countries are lot bigger.

          • Chucky3176

            Check that. I got the land sizes wrong. According to Google:

            France 640,000 Sq. KM

            Spain 504,000 Sq. KM

            Britain 230, 000 Sq. KM

            Itally 301 000 Sq. KM

            South Korea 100,000 Sq. KM

            As you can see, France is over 6 times larger.

      • namepen

        The value of France’s exports are roughly similar with those of South Korea, Italy and the UK and all are far behind Germany.

        Those ‘welfare nanny states’ are going through a dodgy patch, but will no doubt bounce back.

        The real difference with Korea is that they are part of the largest trading bloc in the world and have huge potential for trade. Korea’s economic future is less certain and over the coming decades they are likely to develop an almost colonial like dependence on trade with China.

        Korea shouldn’t be spending what little resources it has when a Chinese slowdown has the potential to cause serious problems for satellites like Korea.

        • Shane

          “The value of France’s exports are roughly similar with those of South Korea, Italy and the UK and all are far behind Germany.”

          Yeah, but S.Korea was less than half of those countries, only about ten years ago. It’s the pattern that’s going opposite ways for S.Korea and Western Europe, which is interesting to see. Maybe the answer is S.Korea should try to be more like Western Europe, and Western Europe should try to be more like S.Korea.

  • suppertime

    No social welfare in Korea yet such high taxes (approaching Europe levels). Where does the money go? Could it just be gov’t contracts to friends and families of politicians? Maybe it’s that only sarymen pay taxes.

    • Chucky3176

      “No social welfare in Korea yet such high taxes (approaching Europe levels)”

      Totally false. Korea’s tax burden is still one of the lowest in the developed world. Yet, the rate of social welfare payments is one of the fastest growing. So in essence, what we have here is, government payments are growing rapidly to approach European levels (at a time when Europe starts to dial down their social programs), yet tax collection stays the same. What happens then? Government deficits rise, and government debt levels increase. That is not a good thing.

      • suppertime

        Personal income tax rates in Korea are much higher than in the U.S. But maybe overall taxes are low because of tax evasion. You are right, when you have no social safety net, any new welfare spending, however tiny, is a massive increase.

        • redwhitedude

          All the more reason why welfare policies need to be carefully considered. Demographically things are not looking good with fewer kids and increasing number of people hitting retirement age.

        • Xman2014

          Huh? The income tax rate in South Korea is at the bottom of the OECD, yet South Korea has the highest corporate tax rate.

          As you can see, South Korea is virtually last in collecting amount of taxes from individuals, yet they’re raping the corporations. It’s no wonder companies don’t hire but flee the country to set up somewhere else cheaper with little to no taxes.

          Also, about 50% of South Koreans don’t pay any income taxes either, through elaborate ways of tax dodging. That means many of them don’t contribute into old age pension. And if they don’t contribute into old age pension, when they get old, they will get nothing, natta, zip. Yet I know these same people will complain that they get nothing. Well… if you didn’t prepare for old age when you were working, and you didn’t pay any taxes, don’t blame the government. Blame yourself.

  • Boris

    Koreans (or any other group) shouldn’t compare their countries to others, especially when they have no idea about the other countries they are comparing themselves to.

  • Kenny

    it is true that south korea used to be poorer than the Philippines…

  • commander

    A bruised battle is expected to pin down parameters of welfare policy for the nation struggling with the slowing economy.

    Liberals claim that a country with the least-amoung of welfare spending, South Korea should weave a broader and strong web of welfare benefits to the disadvantaged, and that welfare policy should not humiliate recipients just because they are poor, and offer unconditional support for the marginalized, notably lonely-living elderly citizens with no one to turn to, and teenage breadwinners. At this time of ever-widening income inequality, without strong support based on expanded welfare, the less fortunate will be confined to an inextricable abject poverty trap, liberals assert.

    Though acknowledging the need for a stronger welfare policy, conservatives voice their opposition to universal coverage of welfare benefits to all class. Their argument is that the extended welfare should only include the underprivileged, not those who are affluent. And they also claim that a broder scope of welfare benefits should be designed to encourage receivers to stand on their feet, not to offer unconditional support making them permanently reliant on state assistance.

    Based on this notion, a conservative governor in North Gyeongsang Province rolled back the offering of free meals for all students, irrespective of affluence of their parents, saying that the present program will be revised to support people in more need, with more financial support while leaving the financially capable out of the entitlements.

    The governor said that he think it’s absurd that the local government offer school meals for children from wealthy families free of charge.

    His decision prompts a mixed reaction of welcome and condenmation.

    Right wingers hail his move as a step in the right direction, while progressvies frame it as retrogressive.

    The stances poles apart demonstrate the imperative of forging an underlyibg concensus about what direction the country should push its welfare policy.

    The obstacles to hammering out such an bipartisan agreement are huge as the welfare expansion is not only associated with a tax increase issue amid growing concerns over fast-rising fiscal debt. It is also linked with the philsophy of economic policy since the case for tax increase revolves around higher taxation on conglomerates which progressives see have benefited from increased exports bolstered by free trade agreements with the world’s major economies, but have been reluctant to raise wages for their workers and to make investments with enormous corporate retained earnings.

    Ferocious battle over welfare policy will continue as political parties start to win over voters with the general elections slated for April next year.

  • namsanStyle

    Korea just didn’t get the spoils of imperialism like Europe and Japan did….yet…haha

  • Krystal Hampton

    “This is all the dinosaurs’ fault… If they had died in Korea, Korea could’ve been an oil-rich country and we would be enjoying such an easy life. We are living like this because dinosaurs died in some weird places. Dinosaurs who lived in the Korean peninsula, you SoBs… All you fucking bastards did was leaving footprints and bailing. It’s all because of you dinosaurs…”

    The funniest **** I’ve read in a long time. Damn you dinosaurs.

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