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[Newsmaker] Ruling party presidential hopefuls rally supporters

‘Big Three’ focus on social welfare policy as they outline platforms

Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung (Yonhap)
With a year to go before the presidential election, three political heavyweights from the ruling bloc are rallying supporters, with each of their visions focusing on social welfare policies.

Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, former Democratic Party leader Lee Nak-yon and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, dubbed the ruling party’s Big Three, all launched their own think tanks and began working out their policies and messaging strategies.

Front-runner Gov. Lee launched the Korea Growth and Fair Forum on Wednesday, where he outlined his election campaign ahead of the party’s competition to choose a presidential candidate.

Five-term lawmaker Cho Jung-sik of the Democratic Party of Korea and former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok were appointed as co-chairpersons of the forum. About 15,000 people from academia and from the legal and cultural spheres helped to promote it.

Gov. Lee, whose flagship policy brand since the last presidential election has centered on basic income, began spelling out his social welfare policies in greater detail.

The heart of his basic income policy is to dole out 1 million won ($889) to each individual every year and to expand that support to 6 million won per person per year over the long term. Lee said he could raise the necessary funds through land taxes, robot taxes and data taxes.

On Wednesday, speaking at a separate tax forum in Yeouido, Seoul, Lee also talked about the unfairness of the tax system for real estate in South Korea.

“If the unfairness intensifies, people will despair, productivity will decrease and the social system will eventually suffer a structural crisis,” he said.

Market prices are close to official government-designated prices “for apartments and buildings where many working-class people live,” he said, but not for expensive buildings. “It is possible that the tendency of those who make decisions or policy decisions may have been reflected.”

Another presidential hopeful, former Democratic Party leader Lee Nak-yon, proposed a solution to the real estate problem at his Solidarity and Symbiosis Symposium, Tuesday. He said he would create a “property department.”

“(We will) separate transportation and logistics from the current Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and establish a housing development department in charge of addressing housing problems,” he said.

On Wednesday, Lee Nak-yon pledged better housing assistance for young people. Currently, eligibility is restricted to people earning no more than 45 percent of the median income, or 820,000 won per month. For young people, he would increase the threshold to 1.82 million won per month, the equivalent of a full-time salary for a minimum wage earner, he said.

Former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun proposed Tuesday the introduction of a support fund for vocational skills development. He was speaking at the Gwanghwamun Forum, led by lawmakers in support of Chung.

“I suggest the introduction of the support fund for vocational skills development for people to develop their aptitude smoothly throughout their lives without financial difficulties,” he said. “How about paying 20 million won per person for life and up to 5 million won per year?”

Earlier, on April 29, Chung had raised this idea during a lecture at a college.

“We are designing a policy to support 100 million won in 20-year reserves so that all newborns can build their own foundation without parental opportunities when they become beginners in society,” he said.

In a survey released by Gallup Korea last week, Gov. Lee received 25 percent support while former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl received 22 percent.

Support for Lee Nak-yon was sluggish at 5 percent, and Chung Sye-kyun was far behind at 1 percent. Within the opposition bloc, People’s Party Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo received 3 percent support and independent Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, a former People Power Party chairman, received 2 percent.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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