The chief of the ruling Saenuri Party on Tuesday called for bipartisan efforts to tackle chronic problems in the economy and prepare for inter-Korean reunification, citing issues such as a widening income gap and North Korea's human rights situation.
Rep. Hwang Woo-yea made the call in a speech marking the beginning of this month's extra parliamentary session, saying the country's future depends on its ability to overcome such challenges.
"One could say that the No. 1 duty of the government of our times is to ease deepening inequalities," Hwang said in his address to the National Assembly. "The Saenuri Party will adopt solutions to inequalities as its central policy task and devote all of our energy to rebuilding a 'great middle-class society.'"
Recent data show that nearly half of South Koreans consider themselves as belonging to the lower class, while South Korea's Gini coefficient -- a measure of income inequality -- is the sixth-highest among 34 advanced nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, he said.
Hwang also vowed to work together with opposition parties to formulate and execute the three-year economic innovation plan announced by President Park Geun-hye last month, saying the focus will be on fostering a "creative economy" and nurturing small but skilled businesses, known as hidden champions.
The three-year plan centers on three main strategies -- strengthening economic fundamentals, nurturing an innovative economy and creating a balanced economy where not just exports but also domestic demand is stimulated.
Hwang also said the ruling party will focus on issues related to North Korea and inter-Korean reunification, and work with opposition parties to create a single mid- to long-term overarching policy on the two subjects.
The rival parties should pass a long-pending bill on North Korea's human rights situation during this month's parliamentary session and work to encourage more cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the sides, he said.
The main opposition Democratic Party recently voiced support for the bill, but the two parties have still maintained their differences over whether it should call for giving more humanitarian aid to the impoverished North. (Yonhap News)