Park peeved by poor response to reform pledges

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Park peeved by poor response to reform pledges

President-elect Park Geun-hye expressed her “displeasure” with unsavory media reports, citing a series of government officials who frowned on her reformist pledges, giving a rare warning to the uncooperative administration.

“It is clear that she is displeased with the situation when some government departments showed a negative reaction to the feasibility of some of her pledges,” Park Sun-kyu, a spokesman for the incoming president, told reporters on Saturday at a press briefing.

On Thursday, officials from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of National Defense held closed-door meetings with her transition team to report their plans for the new year.

There, the Health Ministry officials said it would be difficult to carry out Park’s health insurance expansion pledges which would cover all medical expenses for the four critical illnesses and increasing pensions for the elderly, local media said, because it would cost too much.

Park has said it would cost a total of 28.5 trillion won ($26.9 billion) for her expanded health coverage programs, for the next five years. But the ministry estimates at least 10 trillion won annually.

Particularly, her plan to increase basic pensions for the elderly and handicapped will cost at least 7 trillion won of state budget annually in total, the ministry estimates.

The ministry also said Park’s other promise to cover expenses for four critical illnesses will cost about 2 or 3 trillion won every year, more than her estimates of 1.5 trillion won.

The Defense Ministry is also reluctant toward her plan to decrease compulsory military service, one of her ambitious pledges that young voters welcomed, to 18 months.

The military estimates at least 27,000 soldiers needed to make up for the decreased forces every year, along with roughly 30,000 more noncommissioned officers.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is also concerned about her proposal to solve expensive house rental fees, in which house owners take out loans from a bank rather than getting jeonse, or lump-sum, rental deposits and tenants have to pay the interest on those loans.

Although Park promised to grant some tax benefits to home owners, the Land Ministry says there should be more incentives for home owners to be encouraged to get a loan.

However, the incoming president sees the government offices as using the media to avert changes, the spokesman said.

“Her displeasure comes from the government officials’ passive attitude of showing no willingness to resolve current problems for people and just relying on outdated customs,” the spokesman said. “What she is trying to ask the government officials, including her transition team, is to ponder how to resolve problems [of the country] in consideration of the views of the people.”


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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