Seoul city clashes with central government over welfare program

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : August 3, 2016, 15:14 | Updated : August 3, 2016, 15:14

Seoul city mayor Park Won-soon chats with a young passenger in a subway car.[Yonhap News Photo ]

Seoul city mayor Park Won-soon, a presidential hopeful, pushed ahead Wednesday with the controversial payment of cash subsidies to young jobless people, putting aside a central government order to stop a populist welfare program.

Park's office said it has started paying 500,000 won (449 US dollars) to 2,831 selected Seoul residents aged between 19 and 29 for up to six months.

Initially, the mayor proposed his program in November last year to support young people struggling without jobs, sparking a row with the government of conservative President Park Geun-hye.

The health and welfare ministry issued an order Monday to stop an unauthorized cash payment, threatening to take punitive administrative steps against what it called a "populist" scheme. Undaunted by the ministry's warning, Park went ahead with the payment of cash subsidies, saying he would fight back in court if the central government takes action.

Ministry officials have voiced concern about moral hazards saying temporary cash allowances would not be a fundamental long-term solution as city governments rely heavily on funding from the central government.

Park, 60, was elected first as Seoul mayor in 2011 an independent candidate with strong support from liberal voters. In 2014, he was elected to his second term. Through the program, the mayor hopes to provide financial assistance and encouragement to young adults who could not find a job.

The number of marriages in South Korea fell to a record low last year as more young people delay their plans to find spouses amid economic woes, unstable employment and high living and wedding costs.

This year concern has been growing at a high rate of youth unemployment with no signs of improvement in the job market due to corporate restructuring.  The youth jobless rate (aged between 15 and 29 ) has stayed above ten percent.

Aju News Lim Chang-won =
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