26.5 billion dollars in quality of life investments promised

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26.5 billion dollars in quality of life investments promised

The government announced a multi-trillion won plan on Monday to dramatically increase local community infrastructure to improve people’s quality of life, offering fitness centers, libraries and day care facilities.

Some 30 trillion won ($26.5 billion) will be set aside from central state coffers for the project, while 18 trillion won is expected to be allocated from regional government coffers and the private sector, bringing the total to 48 trillion won.

The government hopes to finalize its so-called life-friendly social overhead capital (SOC) plan by 2022, when President Moon Jae-in leaves office that May.

The project is seen as part of Moon’s vision to build an inclusive nation, in which all sectors of society prosper - while also creating tens of thousands of new jobs.

According to a blueprint of the project relayed by the Office for Government Policy Coordination, the government will first spend nearly 14.5 trillion won building cultural and physical fitness centers across the nation. While there are currently 963 public fitness centers, the government hopes to increase that figure to about 1,400. There are 1,042 public libraries in Korea, and the government plans to build about 150 more.

In rural communities where infrastructure is critically lacking, the government will focus on building more basic infrastructure, such as parking lots and multiple-use community centers.

A separate 2.9 trillion won will go towards building more public kindergartens and day care centers, enabling more parents to wean their children off private education.

After-school care for elementary school students, which is currently provided to mostly first- and second-graders, will expand to include older students as well, allowing their parents to flexibly balance work and family.

More nursing homes and health checkup centers for the aged will be built, too. To improve the environment and tackle fine dust, some 12.6 trillion won will be used for creating recreational forests and improving air quality in subway stations, among other measures.

Areas with the most low-income households will be the first to benefit from the project. While local government offices will be responsible for paying off the management bills once new public facilities are built, central authorities will help them raise money through crowd-funding and other methods, said the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

A more elaborate guideline describing the three-year SOC initiative is expected to be released by the end of May. The new facilities will hopefully add 20,000 to 30,000 more jobs in total.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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