The Korea Herald


GNP’s key figures step up welfare plans

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 31, 2011 - 16:53

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Following the defeat in the Seoul mayoral by-election last week, key figures of the ruling Grand National Party are looking to reach out to the public, especially young voters.

Former chairwoman and presidential hopeful Rep. Park Geun-hye is to present on Tuesday a complex policy model, suggesting that welfare should be realized through employment and self-support, according to officials.

She will also claim that the government’s job training systems should be reinforced especially for the underprivileged.

Starting with the presentation, Park is expected to actively embrace young voters and low-income citizens in the runup to the presidential election next year.

Park, who is the most popular Twitter user within the party, also opened recently a Facebook account in order to better communicate with the online community.

“Rep. Park has figured out the answers to the issues that trouble young citizens in their 20s and 30s, especially the unemployment and irregular workers’ problems,” said Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, a close aide to the former chairwoman.

“What is left now is to present those policies to the public one by one.”

Park has generally refrained from speaking out on controversial issues within the party but has always taken a keen interest and active stance regarding welfare issues.

“Park’s welfare plans will be visibly different from those of the Lee Myung-bak administration,” her aide also said, drawing a contrast between her and the president, whose support rate has fallen visibly.

While Park took steps forward to the presidential race, party chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo also set out to reach the public, aiming to makeover the party’s rigid image.

In a series of town meetings with university students, female workers and financial officials, which started off Monday evening, Hong listened to their complaints about the GNP’s policies and politics in general, according to officials.

“Through these meetings with citizens, the party will listen to and embrace the younger generation’s voices, instead of promoting the party’s decisions unilaterally,” said Hong’s close aide.

The moves by the two major figures were based on the sense of emergency sparked by the resignation of former Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon and election defeat of candidate Na Kyung-won to liberal independent runner Park Won-soon.

The party’s consecutive tumbles even affected the outlooks of next year’s big races.

In a public poll recently conducted by a local daily, Ahn Cheol-soo, Seoul National University professor and ally of newly elected Mayor Park Won-soon, took the lead over Rep. Park, though the gap was within the margin of error.

“The party shall focus on figuring out problems such as unemployment, tuition fees, daycare and other daily difficulties faced by citizens,” said Rep. Lee Ju-young, the party’s policy committee chairman.

“Protective measures for irregular workers and university tuition fee cut plans are our top priorities.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (