All eyes trained on Agenda 2050

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All eyes trained on Agenda 2050

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Politicians across party lines will launch a policy study group tentatively named “Agenda 2050” to find solutions to a variety of social and economic problems facing Korea. A group of 12 lawmakers from the conservative Saenuri Party and liberal Minjoo and People’s parties as well as one independent will formally launch the group today at the National Assembly.

The group includes Minjoo Party interim leader Kim Chong-in, independent Yoo Seong-min and Rep Kim Se-yeon of the Saenuri Party.

The group will discuss a wide range of economic and social issues such as wealth disparities and a shrinking middle class. The launching of the group comes as Asia’s fourth largest economy finds itself in an economic slump with GDP growth stuck in the two-percent range.

Its five major topics will be education, employment, welfare, taxation and administration policies. The party composition of the group has drawn keen interest given that a presidential election is only 18 months away.

The 12 members are considered reform-minded lawmakers with clear and strong political philosophies. They have reputations for not being shy about challenging their party leadership.

Yoo Seong-min, a four-term lawmaker and a former economist with a Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin, said that to widen welfare benefits, tax increases are an inevitability and that an increase in corporate tax rate should not be ruled out. In a recent speech before university students, Yoo called for a more active and fair distribution of wealth through welfare and taxation policies to solve income inequalities.

Yoo had a very public falling out with President Park Geun-hye a year ago, who accused him of political betrayal over a legislative deal with the opposition. Yoo was denied a Saenuri nomination in April’s general election and won as an independent from Daegu. Yoo is seen by many as a potential presidential candidate. Analysts are wondering if the group will set a policy agenda for the 20th National Assembly, in which power is split among the three main parties.

In a phone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Minjoo interim leader Kim, who calls for “economic democratization” through an overhaul of in the chaebol-dominated economy, denied such a scenario. “I only said yes when Rep. Kim Se-yeon asked me to join a policy group. It has nothing do with political maneuvering.” One senior Saenuri Party member did not rule out a central role Agenda 2050 could play in major policy initiatives.

“Demand for ‘new conservative politics’ has been on the rise in the aftermath of the general election defeat. Agenda 2050 could see itself as a political group for moderate voters to become a formidable political entity,” said the party official, who asked not to be named.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, HYUN IL-HOON [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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