DP chairman defends broader welfare programs

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DP chairman defends broader welfare programs

Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu yesterday defended his party’s pledge of broader welfare programs, despite growing criticism by not only the ruling Grand Nationals but by his party mates as well.

“What’s important is zeitgeist, philosophy and will,” Sohn said in a meeting with DP senior members. “From now on, we will further expand our welfare programs into housing and education.”

To this end, the DP will soon establish a special in-house committee devoted to the broader welfare programs. Sohn said criticism about the party’s lack of plans to finance the broader series of welfare pledges can be resolved constructively and practically.

“We can start by adjusting the fiscal structure and revenue and expenditure structure and reinforcing our policies,” Sohn said. “I am confident that there will be no problem implementing our pledges.” Sohn also condemned the Grand National Party for calling the DP’s pledges populist welfare promises, asking, “I wonder if they understand what the people and the current time want.”

Sohn also criticized President Lee Myung-bak for having encouraged elitism through his idea of selective welfare programs, adding that it is his goal to end the old era of elitism and discrimination by winning the next presidential election. During the meeting, Sohn also expressed appreciation to the DP leadership, which backed the party’s welfare pledges.

While Sohn defended the DP’s position for “comprehensive welfare programs,” the Grand Nationals attacked the opposition party for promoting populist ideas without serious consideration of the need to raise tax revenue. “The Democrats’ free welfare pledges are a series of tax bombs and a series of lies,” Hong Joon-pyo, a senior member of the GNP, said yesterday. “Our policy should be selective welfare programs for working-class people.”

Another senior leader, Park Seoung-hyo, said, “The parents may spend money generously to buy their children everything they want, but it will be the children who will have to pay the debts.”

While the GNP continued to point out the DP’s lack of a plan to finance the massive welfare pledges, ranging from free school lunches to free medical care for the entire population, a senior Democrat said yesterday that increasing tax rates to create the resources will be the solution.

“What the Democratic Party needs right now is the audacity to face the core of the problem,” said Chung Dong-young, a senior DP leader. “The core here is creating the financial resources and the key to the resources is tax revenues.”

Chung said an additional 100 trillion won of annual expenditure is necessary to take Korea’s welfare system to the average level of OECD countries. “As of now, Korea’s total tax rate is 19.3 percent, 7.3 percent lower than the average of OECD members,” Chung said.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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