President Park Geun-hye on Thursday reiterated her drive to strengthen the social safety net through a fair redistribution of state income generated by economic stimulus plans amid growing concerns over welfare blind spots.
“We should put our society back on the right track so that we can open an era of happiness for the people, where the fruits of growth are shared evenly with all people,” she said at a national breakfast prayer meeting held by Christian churches here.
“I will try harder to eliminate the welfare blind spots in our society and open an era of peace on the Korean Peninsula through building trust.”
Park has repeatedly ordered officials this week to improve and better promote the welfare system after several tragic suicides.
Last week, a 61-year-old woman and her two daughters in their 30s were found dead in their residence in an apparent suicide because of financial difficulties. They may have chosen to live if they had known they were eligible for emergency support from the state and other benefits, according to reports.
Another woman in her 30s is believed to have killed her preschool-aged son and herself on Sunday. The woman is also known to have suffered because of financial difficulties.
The series of suicides have added fuel to criticisms that the country’s welfare system failed to provide support to those in dire need. Concerns also increased over whether President Park could implement a wide range of welfare policies during her term, which ends in 2017.
Park established the vision of a welfare state during her presidential campaign in 2012 and vowed to carry out a tailored program to better support people suffering in extreme poverty, offering them chances to stand on their own feet.
A basic pension plan for seniors in the bottom 70 percent income group and an increased state budget to expand the recipient pool of basic benefits are key measures. But the two bills are currently pending at the National Assembly. Park has been attacked by opposition parties claiming she is backtracking on her welfare pledges due to budget constraints.
The president believes that she can secure finances for increased spending on welfare by implementing intense economic reforms over the next three years. It was reported last year that the Park government needs to secure 135 trillion won to implement her campaign pledges in the medical and welfare sector during her five-year term.
Park said she would focus on strengthening economic fundamentals by rectifying problematic practices deeply rooted in Korean society.
“Our country is now standing at a very important historic crossroads because it is time to innovate our economy and society and lay the foundation for yet another great leap forward,” Park said Thursday.
Her plans include reforming debt-ridden public institutions, removing investment-hampering regulations, rooting out unfair market practices, realizing her creative economy vision and pursuing more free-trade deals.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)