The government and the ruling Saenuri Party agreed on Thursday to drastically cut electricity bills between July and September, hours after President Park Geun-hye called for a solution to the excessive bills in the midst of record-breaking summer heat.
The decision was made during an emergency afternoon meeting involving key Saenuri Party members and relevant government officials to seek for ways to change the current electricity rates. The progressive rating system, which imposes a different rate on household electricity depending on the total voltage used, was introduced in 1974 as a means to encourage voluntary energy conservation and has been in effect ever since.
“The idea is to allow each energy sector an extra 50 kilowatts without corresponding charge from July to September,” said the party’s policymaker Rep. Kim Gwang-lim.
“Some 22 million households will benefit from the fee cutdown,” Kim said.
|Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun (left) speaks during an emergeny meeting with the government on solving the excessive electricity bills at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)|
The cutback plan, meanwhile, is expected to cause deficits amounting to 420 billion won ($382 million) for the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp., Kim added.
The decision came years after the debate over the rating system that differentiates between electricity use in industries and homes, and weeks after escalating protest from citizens and the political parties for the excessive accumulation of rate for the households. The government had maintained that the rating system was the most reasonable and that a change may hamper the sound management of electricity demands.
During a luncheon with the new Saenuri Party leadership, Park said, “It is pitiful that despite such abnormal heat these days, people should hesitate to turn on the air conditioner in fear of electricity fees.”
“The government has been searching for valid solutions and, in close cooperation with the party, will make efforts to announce (related) plans to the people in the near future.”
Her remarks came in answer to a question by new party chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, who called for Park’s attention to agendas involving the people’s livelihoods.
“The progressive rate system has so far been inevitable for the sake of energy conservation, as our country is entirely dependent on imports for energy and is to head toward the new energy business in the future,” said Park.
During the luncheon, the president and the party also shared the view that the forthcoming antisolicitation law needs to be partly deregulated for agriculture, fisheries and livestock industries.
“The president said that the enforcement ordinance should abide by the legislative intent of the given bill and that the issue needs to be addressed,” Lee told reporters in a briefing following the luncheon.
“I understand that the reason that (the president) invited us so soon after the national convention is because there are so many urgent issues to be dealt with, including the (pending) supplementary budget bill and several economic revitalization bills,” Lee said.
The third-term lawmaker and former senior presidential secretary for public affairs is one of the closest confidants of the president. He was elected on Tuesday as the party’s new chairman for a two-year term.
During the amicable luncheon, which lasted for almost two hours, Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party largely hailed their partnership during the remaining 16 months of President Park’s term.
“I hope that (you) take confidence and move forward, instead of belittling yourselves,” were the president’s words toward Lee’s leadership, which kicked off amid complaints over the pro-Park group’s alleged power monopoly.
“What the people want of the new leadership is to end feuds and to prioritize economic issues.”
Chairman Lee responded by vowing the party’s full-fledged cooperation.
“I believe that the role of the ruling and opposition parties should be differentiated,” said the presidential devotee.
“Our party will thus make the best efforts (to support) our president’s government in achieving its goals.”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)