Elderly Free Ride Debate
Elderly Free Ride Debate
  • Heo Eun-seo
  • 승인 2023.11.28 10:43
  • 댓글 0
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   The free ride program for senior citizens began by offering a half-price discount on fare rates for elderly individuals. Subsequent conflicts emerged when the system extended to offer full fare discounts to individuals aged 65 and above. Initially, there was no issue as the proportion of elderly individuals aged 65 and above was low. However, from 2000, South Korea faced challenges related to an aging population, leading to financial problems highlighted by deficits in railway corporations and local governments. 
   According to South Korea’s elderly welfare law, the state or local governments may allow free use or provide discounts on public facilities such as transportation facilities and public sites for individuals aged 65 and above as prescribed by the presidential decree. During the debate on this issue, senior citizens benefiting from the program stated that the most crucial reason for using the subway was the free-ride system. The primary activity conducted using the subway was socializing, according to their responses. They believed discontinuing the free-ride system would significantly impact their daily lives. 
   Currently, the subway system is facing severe financial deficits. The cost of providing free rides on the subway is ultimately transferred to other paying passengers through fare increases. Additionally, senior citizens residing in rural areas without urban subways or cities lacking subway systems do not benefit from the free-ride program. While senior citizens living in rural areas can obtain discounted transit cards by verifying their identity through vending machines in cities where subways and metropolitan rail systems operate, the frequency of usage is significantly lower. Therefore, there is an apparent regional disparity and discrimination against elderly individuals living in rural areas.
   Reversing the free-ride system all at once might be too drastic from a welfare perspective. It is essential to implement policies promptly to mitigate the side effects. Potential measures to be considered include raising the age limit for free rides, implementing fare rates based on specific time slots, and issuing discounted transit passes exclusively for welfare beneficiaries.

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