The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced on Monday that it will hold a referendum on Aug. 24 on whether the city should proceed with its free school lunch program.
Seoul citizens will be asked to choose between providing free lunches to selected students or to all students in the vote requested by conservative civic activists opposing what they called "welfare populism" by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), the government said.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon has pitted himself against a decision made by the city council, controlled by the DP, last December to provide free lunches to all elementary school students from this year and all middle-school students from 2012.
The mayor and the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) have promoted a plan to provide free lunches to students from the lower 50-percent-income households in steps by 2014, saying children from rich families do not need free lunch.
They see the referendum as a high chance to put the brakes on the DP's aggressive welfare campaign, including free lunches and half-price college tuitions, ahead of next year's legislative and presidential elections.
All voters in Seoul except for public officials, local election committee members and journalists can campaign for one of the two plans up until the night before the referendum day, according to the city government.
A turnout of at least 33.3 percent of the city's 8.36 million eligible voters and a majority vote is needed for Oh to override the city council's plan. (Yonhap News)