Governor Kim suggests 1 million won subsidy for all citizens

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Governor Kim suggests 1 million won subsidy for all citizens

South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo suggested the government provide 1 million won ($830) to every Korean citizen as a way to overcome the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, reigniting a political debate on the issue Monday.

Kim, a key ally of President Moon Jae-in, said Sunday in a press briefing that the Korean government should provide a “disaster basic income” to everyone and consider it “a large investment” to revitalize the domestic economy as spending has nosedived amid the spread of the coronavirus.

Kim’s proposition would cost the government some 51 trillion won.

The South Gyeongsang governor - who has seen at least 83 people in his province infected with the virus as of Monday, which is about 1 percent of Korea’s total infections - insisted Sunday that government authorities don’t have time to thoroughly select who among the public were the most seriously affected by the crisis, which is why everyone should be entitled to receive the fund.

Kim continued that the fund will be beneficial for state coffers in the long run because people will spend the cash and boost the local economy, which in turn will lead to increased tax revenue.

He urged the National Assembly and government to discuss the matter while they review the supplementary budget plan.

“The biggest problem with the Korean economy right now,” Kim said during the press conference at the South Gyeongsang provincial government office in Changwon Sunday, “is that money isn’t circulating in the domestic market, and when this is coupled with decreased exports, it leads to people losing their jobs and receiving less income, which causes the domestic market to freeze even more.”

The South Gyeongsang governor added that the government can “fully redeem” the disaster basic income funds going toward high-income citizens when it collect taxes next year, claiming that the project will be cheaper than the budget for the notorious four rivers restoration project carried out in the former right-leaning Lee Myung-bak administration.

The idea to provide free cash to the public was first suggested by Lee Jae-woong, CEO of the car-sharing service operator Socar, who uploaded a petition on the Blue House website on Feb. 29 calling on the government to offer 500,000 won to some 10 million people across the nation so they can “buy face masks and at least eat ramen in their homes.”

Recipients should include mom-and-pop store owners, freelancers, students, non-regular workers and those without a job, Lee wrote.

Numerous politicians have since showed varying levels of support for Lee’s petition, with some saying that the government should offer funds to the hardest-struck areas of Daegu and North Gyeongsang, where nearly 90 percent of Korea’s coronavirus infections are concentrated.

BY HWANG SUN-YOON, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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