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[Newsmaker] ‘COVID relief to 80% of households is too much’

Yoo Seong-min (Yonhap)
Yoo Seong-min (Yonhap)
Former legislator and opposition presidential contender Yoo Seong-min criticized the ongoing political argument over whether to hand out another round of COVID-19 relief grants to all Koreans or to only those in the lower 80 percent of the income brackets.

Based on the national health insurance premiums, the monthly income of a four-person household in the lower 80 percent income bracket is 9.75 million won at the upper bound, which is 117 million won in annual income (before tax), Yoo wrote on Facebook on Friday.

“As if (the lower) 80 percent is reasonable, they’re not even talking about making it less than 80 percent,” Yoo said.

“Can one say it is proper and fair to give out 250,000 won per person in crisis relief to a four-person household that makes 117 million won a year? Are they pushing for this because there’s so much money left after sufficiently supporting small-business owners, the self-employed, the jobless and those in poverty?”

Politicians should put a hand on their heart and think about it, Yoo wrote.

“Both the ruling and the opposition (parties) must stop the releasing of funds without reason or rationality, and find ways to help those really suffering. The president, prime minister and deputy prime minister (finance minister) must go back to being reasonable,” he wrote.

In late June, the government proposed an extra budget of 33 trillion won to finance the fifth round of stimulus checks for COVID-19 relief for people in the bottom 80 percent income bracket and small business owners hit by the pandemic.

The ruling Democratic Party, however, wants to offer cash payouts to all households.

It was reported on Monday that Lee Jun-seok, leader of the main opposition People Power Party, agreed to the universal grants during his meeting with his DP counterpart Song Young-gil, drawing strong backlash from within his party. Lee later had to clarify that he only agreed to consider supporting the plan.

Rep. Yoon Hee-wook of the People Power Party, who announced her presidential bid, said it is the party’s philosophy to offer crisis relief to people who have suffered damages.

“One person can’t just change the (party’s) philosophy,” she said in a radio interview earlier this week.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Thursday the government will have to reconsider the original plan if the ruling and opposition parties agree on universal payouts.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki insisted Friday that the government should stick to the 80 percent plan.

Hong has said that it was hard to agree to giving the grants to people whose assets have increased during the COVID-19 crisis, and that no other country in the world does universal payouts.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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