Moon lays out welfare plans
Published : Oct 31, 2012 - 20:23
Updated : Oct 31, 2012 - 20:23
Democratic United Party presidential candidate Moon Jae-in pledged Wednesday to increase state benefits and halve the costs of child care, education, medical services and those associated with old age.

“For me, Moon Jae-in, (establishing a) welfare state is the philosophy of conducting state affairs and the future strategy for Korea,” Moon told reporters.

“A welfare state is the only way for democracy and market economy to exist and advance together.”

Welfare has emerged as a key campaign issue as Korea becomes an aged society and income gaps are ever growing.

According to the plans, Moon will double the monthly elderly pension to 180,000 won ($165) by 2017, and expand the program to include all those over the age of 65.

At present about 66 percent of those in the age group receive the state pension.

Moon added that measures for reclaiming the pension paid to seniors in the highest income bracket will be introduced.

In addition, Moon plans to introduce jobseekers’ allowance and 100,000 won per month child benefit for those raising children under the age of 12.

As for his plans to halve the costs of child care, education, medical services and senior care, he said that he will expand the role of the public sector, and that the National Health Insurance coverage will be widened to include nursing services.

The DUP candidate’s plans also include placing a 1 million won ceiling on annual medical costs that need to be covered by the individual and covering all tests and treatments with proven efficacy with the National Health Insurance.

As part of his plans to become “the first president of Korea as a welfare state” Moon also said that he will implement measures to create up to 100,000 social service jobs, and 150,000 senior care-related jobs, of which 45,000 will be accounted for by positions at government-funded facilities.

In addition, the number of firefighters will be increased by 20,000 and that of welfare-related civil servants will also be raised, Moon said.

Regarding the cost of introducing the measures, Moon indicated that he does not plan to raise the necessary funds through tax increases.

“The actual tax rate will be increased by abolishing tax reductions for the rich, and by fixing exemptions and reductions for large and chaebol companies,” Moon said. He added that additional funds will be raised by stopping unnecessary civil engineering and construction projects and “wasteful expenditure.”

“The burden will not be placed on small- and medium-sized enterprises and the general public.”

Moon is not alone in placing such emphasis on welfare in the run up to the December election.

While not as detailed, Rep. Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party has stated that she will direct 27 trillion won each year to welfare projects. Park’s plans center around establishing a welfare system tailored to Korea and its social circumstances, and the conservative candidate has stated that she will establish a social safety net that can achieve a balance between welfare services and income security.

Independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo has so far focused on child care, housing, health and old age in outlining his welfare policies.

Policies that have come from Ahn’s camp include increasing state housing to account for up to 10 percent of all housing by 2018, increasing the old age pension to a level equal to 10 percent of the average income and providing child benefits.

While the focus on welfare may be appealing to the general public, the candidates have been criticized for the lack of financial planning to fund the projects.

According to one estimate, the disparity between Park’s welfare expenditure and fiscal planning for the projects amount to 8 trillion won on an annual basis, while that Moon’s plan may run as high as 24.5 trillion won.

By Choi He-suk  (