DP’s Sohn tries to enlist allies

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DP’s Sohn tries to enlist allies

Predicting the next presidential election will be a war over welfare and justice, Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu has reached out to critics in his own party as part of a campaign to promote broader welfare benefits and invited them to join his policy group.

Sohn met with Representatives Kang Bong-kyun, Lee Young-sup and Jang Byung-wan in a private meeting on Tuesday, Democratic Party sources said.

The three lawmakers, former technocrats of liberal administrations, have criticized Sohn’s recent pledges - of free school lunches and medical and day-care programs - for lacking a plan to raise funds to pay for his proposed programs.

At the meeting, Sohn spoke about his campaign’s importance, calling welfare and justice “the key words for the 2012 presidential election,” the sources said.

Kang was the finance and economy minister during the Kim Dae-jung administration and Lee and Jang served in the Roh administration as National Tax Service head and the minister of planning and budget, respectively.

The former technocrats have voiced concern that the DP leadership has been promoting welfare pledges without concrete plans to finance the programs.

The Democratic Party was unable to make free day care an official party position because of such criticism, even though they are still forging ahead with free school lunch and free health care for the entire population by 2015.

After the meeting with Sohn, the three lawmakers decided to join Sohn’s policy panel to create a plan to finance the pledges, sources said.

“Sohn was very worried about how to smoothly adopt free welfare as an official party position,” Kang told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. “As we discussed the issue, we found that we had some common ground.”

Lee said Sohn listened to their criticism during the meeting.

“I told him that it was good for him to raise the issue now to dominate key topics in the future,” Lee said.

“I told him that pledging free medical care may prompt moral hazard, so his position needs to be modified. I also told him that the welfare programs must not be an election pledge and the DP must develop a feasible plan,” Lee added

Sohn also met with academic experts on Saturday to discuss Democratic Party programs, a senior DP source said.


By Shin Yong-ho, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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