“We will try to help make the Republic of Korea where the senior citizens are happy together with all the others,” said Chairman Kim Ho-il of the Korea Senior Citizens Association at a recent interview with him at his office at KSCA in Seoul. Then he disclosed that there is much room for improvement in the area where the senior citizens are required to be treated and accommodated properly as in the case of many other countries of the world.
Chairman Kim disclosed that other civic organizations in Korea are entitled to many privileges but that there appears to be much room for improvement in the case of the senior citizens in Korea. Excerpts from the interview with Chairman Kim follow:
Question: Would you introduce your future business and operational plans as president of the Korean Senior Citizens' Association?
Answer: Currently, the Korean Senior Citizens' Association is a corporation, so only those who have written their own application for membership will become members.
Only the elderly who usually come to the senior citizens’ center wrote the application for a membership and became a member.
They are interested in the Korean Senior Citizens' Association because the senior citizens' center is small and does not have physical education and cultural facilities.
However, there are 8.5 million elderly people over the age of 65 because the elderly, who do not go to the senior citizens’ center, are not members of the Korean Senior Citizens’ Association.
The elderly in the senior citizens’ center are only about three million, a third of all senior citizens, and their finances are poor because they don't benefit from the profit-making business.
The South Korean Veterans Association, an organization of discharged soldiers, is a legal organization under the Korean Veterans Association Act, so all discharged soldiers become automatically members because the Army, Navy and Air Force reserves become membership members.
Retired police officers automatically become members of the Korean National Police Veterans Association because the association is also a legal organization under the "Republic of Korea National Police Veterans Association Act."
As the profit business is guaranteed, the two organizations have plenty of money.
Therefore, the Korean Senior Citizens' Association should be promoted to a legal organization under the Korean Senior Citizens' Association Act and automatically recruit senior citizens aged 65 or older as a member, and the profit business should be guaranteed.
I place the first priority on promoting it to a legal organization. Because 245 cities, counties, and districts of the Korean Senior Citizens' Association do not have sports and cultural facilities for the elderly, I am focusing on establishing a "culture and health promotion center" as soon as possible.
Q: Would you comment on the composition of the organization and current membership of the Korean Senior Citizens' Association?
A: The Korean Senior Citizens' Association is the lowest organization with 245 city, county, district, and 16 metropolitan and provincial associations based on 68,000 senior citizens' centers. It has 20 overseas branches, and universities for the elderly in 245 city, county, and district offices with 3 million members.
Q: Chairman Kim Ho-il said that he was interested in welfare policies for the elderly while serving as the 14th, 15th and 16th term of the National Assembly. What is your special story and achievement?
A: In 2000, when I was elected as a member of the National Assembly for the third time, Korea's elderly population became 7.2 percent of the total, entering an aging society set by the United Nations.
I decided to establish the Senior Citizens' Welfare Policy Research Association with the idea of preparing for the elderly problem as my brain is full of predictions that the elderly population will grow rapidly and the elderly will take a large part in the national operation.
And with the consent of more than 100 lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties, we invited the presidents of the Korean Senior Citizens' Association and professors majoring in senior welfare across the country to establish the National Assembly Welfare Policy Research Association for the Elderly.
And I was elected chairman and appeared on TV and radio shows to emphasize the importance of elderly issues, contributed to newspapers and magazines, held quarterly discussions on welfare for the elderly, and made it a priority for the government policies.
Q: Chairman Kim Ho-il, can you tell us about your special achievements while serving as a third-term lawmaker?
A: In 1992, I entered the 14th National Assembly and was assigned to the Construction Committee for the first two years, and founded the Korea Construction Policy Research Institute and held 15 construction policy discussions.
It was a rewarding achievement to contribute to personality education by conducting legislative activities and being selected as the best researcher and being assigned to the education committee for two years in the second half of the year.
It was a great achievement in 1996 when I was reelected as a lawmaker and served as a deputy floor leader of the ruling Grand National Party and led the 15th National Assembly for harmony and introduced the confirmation hearing system for ministers for the first time.
It was very rewarding to summon the Japanese ambassador to Korea to the National Assembly in 2000 as chairman of the Special Committee to Correct Distortion of Japanese History Textbooks, to request for correction, and to visit Japan to conduct diplomatic activities.
As I said before, it is a rewarding and achievement to have founded the National Assembly Welfare Policy Research Association for the Elderly and was elected as the chairman and poured out enthusiasm for the welfare policy for the elderly.
Q: What would you like to ask the elderly during the difficult times caused by COVID-19?
A: It's a pity that the senior citizens’ centers have been closed due to COVID-19, and the elderly could not gather together at the senior citizens’ centers for lunch and share their affection with each other.
However, if you get infected with COVID-19, the death rate of the elderly is higher than that of the young, so please follow the safety rules to avoid getting infected with COVID-19.
Q: As the 18th chairman of the Korean Senior Citizens' Association, please let me know if you have any other plans for event.
A: We live in a time of longevity that is called the centenarian era.
It is a great pain for both you and your family if you fail to live a long and healthy life, so we plan to do a lot of sports and cultural activities to focus on living a long and healthy life.
When COVID-19 calms down, we will stage activities to improve our health through various sports events such as gateball, ground golf, park golf, table tennis, badminton, soccer competitions.
We plan to do our best to double the endorphins through various cultural and artistic competitions such as the National Music Festival, the National Song Contest, the National Dance Contest, the National Hanbok Stylish Contest, and the Silver Queen Contest.