The subway free ride system for the elderly over the age of 65 has emerged as a political topic.

The opening was opened by Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon.

At a New Year's press conference on the 30th, Mayor Oh requested that the government support the cost of free transportation.

The next day, People's Power Ho-young Joo also expressed sympathy.

"Seoul subway fares have been tied up for eight years. Even if they raise 300 to 400 won, they fall far short of transportation costs. If the Ministry of Strategy and Finance provides support for subway free transportation, the extent of the fare increase can be adjusted."

- Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, last month Press Conference on the 30th

"(Elderly people aged 65 or older) It seems that there is a subway deficit due to free rides

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"The free ride rate is about 30%. We have been able to survive by issuing corporate bonds, but now we have reached the limit. If it was a private company, the Seoul subway would already go bankrupt."

- Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, Facebook on the 31st of last month

Using the remarks of the political world as an opportunity, I looked into the financial situation to see if the level of Seoul subway deficit is really that serious.

The fact of SBS fact check was confirmed by the team.

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In fact, the team checked the financial status through the 'Railway Statistical Yearbook' published by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The annual report provides detailed information on profit and loss statements, free rides and ratios for each operating institution.

Among them, we identified the financial status of Seoul Transportation Corporation.

First, let's take a look at the scale of subway free ride use by seniors aged 65 and over.

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Before 2020, that is, before Corona, the number of subway users was about 1.7 billion, but during Corona, as telecommuting increased and movement decreased, it fell to 1.2 billion.

The number of elderly free riders is around 200 million before COVID-19 and around the second half of 100 million after that.

As a percentage, it's about 12-13%.

This means that 1 to 2 out of 10 people who ride the subway are unmanned for the elderly.

If so, how much does a free ride cost?

It came out to cost about 200 to 300 billion won.

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If you calculate the cost compared to the operating loss of Seoul Transportation Corporation, it was about 50% before the corona, and it is 20% after the corona.

Since the subway usage rate has decreased since the corona, the operating loss has nearly doubled to the level of 1 trillion won, so the figure of the free ride cost compared to the loss has only decreased.

This is data that supports that the financial situation has deteriorated due to corona.

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It was also verified that Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said, "Even if you raise 300 to 400 won, it will not reach the transportation cost."

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As of 2021, the subway fare is 1,250 won per person, but if you calculate the free ride, the average cost per person is 998 won, but the transportation cost to make the financial balance zero is 2,003 won. , It turned out that there was a loss of 1,000 won for burning one person.

It is true that the elderly free-rider problem has had a significant impact on losses.

The problem is the future.

In particular, as of the end of last year, the population of Seoul over the age of 65 accounted for 17.6% of the total.

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Coupled with the low birth rate and aging population, this trend has no choice but to become more serious.

The proportion of Seoul's 65-year-old population has risen by nearly 7 percentage points in the past 10 years.

There are also projections that it will exceed 20% within a few years.

The political claim that the free ride of the elderly is the biggest factor in aggravating the fiscal deficit can be seen as true.

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In fact, it is not yesterday or today that free riding for the elderly has a negative impact on finances.

Although the specifics are slightly different, the position that all parties should compensate for this problem is similar.

However, in fact, the reason the team fact-checked was because of an uncomfortable look at the issue of free riding for the elderly.

Some argue that free rides for the elderly should be abolished, and in fact, similar controversies have been repeated in recent years.

As a result, the cost of free riding for the elderly has to be covered by the burden of the young and middle-aged and elderly, which has become a source of generational conflict.

Here, unnecessary political controversy has also arisen, intertwined with camp logic.

In other words, the issue of free riding for the elderly is thoroughly consumed by the logic of 'cost'.

As confirmed above, free rides for the elderly on the Seoul subway account for about 12% of the total number of passengers and 20-50% of the operating loss.

But there are also other levels of economic impact that senior free riding has on society.

It is a social benefit obtained by directly facilitating the elderly's outdoor activities.

Although it is an old study, <Analysis of Welfare Policy Effects in the Transport Sector> published by the Korea Transport Institute shows that the free ride system for the elderly has statistically significant positive effects, such as reducing depression by facilitating outdoor activities of the elderly. There is also an analysis that increases.

Free riding on the subway route increases the activity of the elderly over 65 years of age, reducing suicide (61.7 billion won), depression (32.2 billion won), traffic accidents (115.2 billion won), reducing medical expenses (23 billion won), and basic livelihood benefits as of 2012 It generated benefits such as budget reduction (90.8 billion won) and tourism activation (13.1 billion won).

- Choi Jin-seok (2014), Analysis of Welfare Policy Effects in Transportation: Focusing on Free Ride on Subway Routes, Korea Transport Institute Basic Research Report, p. 33.

Of course, this is an estimate based on the calculation of benefits using a statistical method, but as of 2012, the benefits obtained from free rides for the elderly amounted to KRW 320.6 billion, and the cost of free rides during the same period was KRW 336.1 billion, indicating that most of the costs have been offset.

'Giveaway', which we often say, implies that it can be 'benefit' through distribution, in other words.

And that benefit will be available to all members of the community.

I hope that this controversy will not escalate into a theory of the uselessness of the free ride system for the elderly, and furthermore, a generational conflict.

The SBS fact-finding team fact-checked the political claim that the free ride system for the elderly has a significant impact on the finances of the Seoul subway deficit.

As a result of directly checking the financial situation of Seoul Transportation Corporation, there were several figures to support it.

In fact, the team judges the claims of the political rights as 'mostly true'.

This is why the claim that system improvement is necessary is strong.

However, some are showing signs of generational conflict along with the theory of institutional futility.

At the center of it is the premise that the free ride system for the elderly is thoroughly consumed with a cost logic. Following the same cost logic, past studies showing that this system can create invisible benefits can be referred to.

(Interns: Kang Yoon-seo, Su-ah Suh)