National Pension Poster Attacked for Mocking Seniors

Article from Kyunghyang Shinmun:

Poster reads, “Do You Want to Collect Trash on the Streets or Travel the World in Your Old Age?”, Stirs Up Controversy in Portrayal of Seniors

A winning entry in a public ad contest encouraging people to sign up for the national pension service has been the target of criticism for its alleged mockery of seniors.

An official-looking version of the poster first appeared on February 13 on Twitter, igniting discussion.

Images of a hand cart, loaded with waste paper, and high-end luggage are placed next to each other in the poster, with a phrase in the middle reading, “At 65, which would you rather be pulling?”

A poster, picked for second top  prize in a contest, encourage public subscription to national pension service.

The poster, which won second prize in a public contest, encourages subscription to the national pension service. Commenters considered the phrase to be mocking seniors.

Immediately below the title, the poster reads: “The National Pension ensures a decent retirement for you. Let’s begin the second chapter of your life with the national pension service.”

The gist of the ad is that the public pension allows subscribers to enjoy their retirement by traveling instead of collecting waste paper on the streets to make money.

The controversial advertisement took the second spot in the contest held in March 2010 by the National Pension Service, the contest was intended for university students. The poster is available on the official website of the NPS.

The judging committee is said to have included active and former journalists and college professors.

As the poster went viral, some Netizens lashed out.

Twitter user Mayday said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for the NPS to say this. The NPS should have worked to at least make it seem like seniors don’t have to collect paper to survive.”

Another Twitter user, Kay, said, “The poster feels like going one step further than the motto (that previously drew criticism) reading, [the motto read: “Would you rather go on a blind date at university or work in a factory?”

In an apparent bid to quiet controversy, the NPS said, “The poster in question was selected after having gone through impartial assessment by a panel of outside reviewers. Though it may be viewed differently depending on perspective, we see the post as containing the message that the national pension relieves possible poverty among the elderly.”

A parody of a movie poster raises the specter of pension fund bankruptcy

A parody of a movie poster raises the specter of pension fund bankruptcy

Comments from Daum:


Can you even go traveling with what you get from the pension fund?

블루sea: [responding to above]

Seniors can go on a trip only if they receive national pension, collect waste paper and recycle spare LPG cylinders.


Those who are entitled to pensions, retired public officials or military officers, can travel, not subscribers to national pension, even with the maximum payout.

앵카 667:

You can travel on the national pension? Stop dreaming! I just hope the national pension will not dry up by the time I become a recipient!


I doubt that I will receive the national pension. The NPS forces people to sign up for it but it’s not clear whether they are capable of paying you back. What a bunch of con artists!


I don’t even expect pension-funded travel. I just want back what I am paying in.


With no basic safety net available, the blame should be put on social systems driving poor seniors to the streets to gather waste paper for a living. Why does the NPS frame the elderly as lazy?


They’ve gone overboard. In the dead of winter, some impoverished seniors struggle to look for waste paper for a living. I am very sorry for them whenever I spot them on the streets. A public institution like the NPS must be really good at advertising! [sarcasm]


People in their 20s or 30s now will definitely be forced to collect waste paper if they rely solely on the national pension for retirement life.


I think the poster says the opposite of what the NPS intends. Subscribing to the national pension service makes you collect waste paper in later life, while depositing payments in your personal account at a bank will allow you to go on a trip.

Share This Article
Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
  • I, for one, feel the idea is great for an ad. Succinct, witty and straight to the point. It’s just that people are too easily offended. I wonder what was on the first prize poster?

    • Mighty曹

      First prize was probably Korean Air or Asiana Airlines (for traveling). :D

  • Mighty曹

    Great ad but, judging by the top comments, it appears to be more misleading than a mockery. The complaint being, in reality, seniors on pension will not be able to afford to go traveling on trips as the ad suggests.

    • chucky3176

      Read what I said above.

      • Mighty曹

        The truth is, retirees on pension and/or social security service , will have just enough to get by to pay for normal living expense (assuming they have a house that’s paid for). Many here in the States who don’t get enough to make ends meet often collect cans or plastic to earn extra. I’m sure the NPS in Korea isn’t going to provide enough for the luxury to travel.

        • chucky3176

          I know of no country in the world that pension plans provide a luxurious lifestyle. It’s more of a supplemental income to the savings you made over your working lifetime. But it’s far better than having nothing.

          • Mighty曹

            That’s precisely what I’m saying. As you said, there isn’t any pension in the world that provides a luxurious lifestyle and the Korean pension isn’t going to be any different now or 20-30 years later. It doesn’t take one to realize that and that’s echoed by the netizens.

  • chucky3176

    “Can you even go traveling with what you get from the pension fund?”

    That’s a short term thinking that’s erroneous. South Korea’s national pension system only started in 1988, so for most people, paying into them have been very recent. For most elderly in Korea who are retiring, they did not pay into them until very recently. Of course they’ll get less monthly payments when they’ve made relatively small contributions. We won’t be able to know how successful the pension system will be, until at least 30 more years.

    • commander

      There is a formular to calculate pension payout for subscribers, thus projection is possible.

      Not only that, many people know from their firsthand experiences that the narional fund is a chicken feed so they cannot rely on it for retiremnet life, a percetion that is widely shared in Korean society.

      • chucky3176

        It’s been less than 26 years of pension service, no Korean has gone from first day at work in his twenty’s, to old age retirement in his 60’s. How can there be any firsthand experiences that could be counted as contributing to the pension from start to finish, when no Korean has done it yet? If Korea doesn’t contribute to the pension, then that pension isn’t going to grow. Just complaining about a problem isn’t going to solve the old age retirement problem. You have to start from somewhere.

        • commander

          You appear to misunderstand the pension fund service.

          Few people have been subscribed to the service for any specified full period.

          That’s not the point.

          The national pension’s return rates are considered as lower than when pension premiums are invested in other financial assets.

          Who could want to pay a pension premium?

          The pension serivce can bee seen as a kind of low interest rate savings accumulated over a long time, with little liquidity.

          And what I mean by the first experiences is that elderly people who are now repecients of pension payout all said that their pension plan is hardly helpful foe their living costs.

          You may see the paltry payout is attributable to a short perid of subscription.

          But many reports on a long term sustainability of the pension serivce raise the skepticism about pension service’s financial soundness as the Korea has its demographic aging at one of the fatest paces in the world, increasing pension beneficiaries while subscribers are shrinking dramatically in one of the lowest fertility rate in the world.

          So even full-period subscription do not guarantee the comfortable retirement life.

          And people do not want to should the financial burden for others, amd seek to prepare for their own retirement life separately, like other making investment in other assets or making savings for them.

          • Chucky3176

            “I mean by the first experiences is that elderly people lwho are now repecients of pension payout”

            After paying 9% of your income as mandatory requirement by law, for you to get the full benefits of the national pension fund, you must have paid into the fund for 40 years. However, you are eligible for the benefits after you’ve paid into it for 20 years, but your benefits are cut in half. There’s not a single Korean who has paid into the fund for 40 years, therefore, every single Korean who have retired so far who have paid into the fund for at least 20 years, are only getting half of the benefits.

            I think people are too quick to judge this fund when there’s not a single person who has had a full pay out due to the short history of the fund. It will take at least another 15 to 20 years for us to see people getting their full benefits.

            South Korea’s national pension fund is a $400 billion fund, which is the third largest in the world. It mostly invested itself in the local markets and the returns haven’t been that great. The return on the fund in 2012 was 12% however. Now they’re starting to branch out to the global markets, including the US, and looking for global talents to look after the investment. But their problem is that they’ve been reluctant to pay the market price pay rate of a global fund manager who maybe demanding millions of dollars in salary per year.

          • Mighty曹

            That sounds like the ‘401K’ model that we have here. I elect a percentage of my income each pay period (bi-weekly) to be set aside for retirement, the amount of which is matched by the employer up to a certain amount. The money is then funded in various available types of investments of my choice.

            I’m really taking advantage of it by electing the maximum amount that’s being matched by my employer. Who wouldn’t??

          • chucky3176

            I’m not familiar with 401K, but the Korean National pension fund is a mandatory contribution for the employed and the self employed. It’s probably similar with the Japanese pension system.

          • holdingrabbits

            Serious question: Is there even a single Korean who works for 40 years? It seems like no one gets a job until their late 20’s and then gets pushed into retirement in their mid-50’s.

  • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

    That’s it, I am paying into the pension scheme so I can go on holidays to Japan, India, Spain and and do a spot of Middle-Eastern pilgrimage. Yup!

  • BSDetector

    It’d been better if the poster displayed one of those nasty giant trash wagons you see some old people ridiculously pulling down the right-most lane of a 6 lane cluster in the heart of Seoul.

    If you left your future in the hands of someone else, especially the government, you deserve to be mocked. Governments of the world in the last few oh say THOUSAND years have proven to be quite incompetent at doing pretty much anything so why would you entrust them to secure your own future?

    If there’s any time to be selfish I’d say it’s when planning for your future. No one else is going to care more, why should they? They’re looking to their own future.

  • holdingrabbits

    The NPS didn’t exist until when, 1988? Stupid poor elderly! If they had only worked all their life, they could have been entitled to 400-800,000 won a month for 8 years before being expected to promptly die!

Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»