|President Moon Jae-in speaks at the weekly meeting with senior aides on Monday. Yonhap|
Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Democratic Party appear set on giving a 20,000 won ($16.90) telecom bill subsidy to all South Koreans despite growing criticism from the opposition bloc and the public.
It was decided last week to offer a telecom subsidy for all Koreans over the age of 13 as part of the latest package of measures aimed at easing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the plan immediately met with backlash from the opposition bloc, which accused the Moon Jae-in administration of putting on a show and making a token gesture that will have limited impact. The state funds used for the measure will only benefit telecom carriers, critics said. The plan is estimated to cost around 900 billion won, and the fourth supplementary budget the government has submitted for the National Assembly’s review is about 7.8 trillion won.
Lee Ho-seung, senior secretary to the president for economic affairs, hit back at the critics on Monday, saying the subsidy is not insignificant.
“Saying that the amount is meaningless is incomprehensible when thinking from the point of view of ordinary citizens who have to pay telecom bills each month,” Lee said in a radio interview.
While saying that the government is open to suggestions from the National Assembly, Lee hinted that the government is unlikely to backtrack on the matter.
“As it is the duty of the National Assembly to look for better alternatives in reviewing the budget, (the presidential office) will listen to the discussions,” Lee said, adding that the decision was made “after a lot of consideration.”
The ruling Democratic Party is taking a similar stance, saying simply that the matter has been decided and that the supplementary budget bill with the subsidy included has already been submitted to the National Assembly.
The main opposition People Power Party, for its part, continues to berate the government, calling for the plan to be scrapped.
“(The plan) is not a small consolation to the people, but rather causes anger. I am certain that recalling the plan will be a small consolation to the people,” People Power Party Floor Leader Joo Ho-young said, referencing an earlier comment from President Moon Jae-in, who said the subsidy would be a “small consolation” to the people.
The public, meanwhile, appears to be leaning toward the opposition on the issue.
According to a survey conducted by Realmeter, 58.2 percent of respondents thought the plan was poorly thought out.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)