May 11, 2020 11:56
Job creation and universal welfare took center stage in President Moon Jae-in's address to the nation on Sunday marking his third year in office.
"The government will establish the cornerstone for an era of universal unemployment insurance that will benefit everyone employed," Moon said. "We will push ahead with a Korean version of the New Deal as a national project to create jobs."
He vowed to "work swiftly" in his remaining two years in office to strengthen the safety net for those currently not covered by unemployment insurance like non-permanent and contract workers, freelancers and artists.
Moon also vowed to help low-income households and other underprivileged classes, offering "job training and other customized employment support."
The measures will also include stipends for jobseekers. The National Assembly has made progress in enacting laws to make that possible. If they area passed, jobseekers from low-income households will receive W500,000 a month for up to six months, and the government will allocate around W4.6 trillion into that project until 2024 (US$1=W1,221).
"The Korean version of the New Deal is a preemptive investment in the future designed to establish digital infrastructure," Moon said. "The early establishment of 5G networks and the building of infrastructure to collect, accumulate and use data will be pursued as national projects.”"
He also pledged to bolster "no-contact" medical, education and retail services.
Unexpectedly, Moon did not touch on the subject of North Korea and recent attempts to engage the crackpot country with implausible cross-border projects. The issue only surfaced in a Q&A afterwards.
When asked why North Korea is not responding to South Korea’s offer to help combat the coronavirus epidemic, Moon said, "I think there are many difficulties due to the coronavirus epidemic. I don’t think we should pressure North Korea."
Officially North Korea claims to be free of coronavirus infections. Moon pledged to "keep trying to communicate with and persuade the North to accept our cooperation offers." He hinted at future unilateral efforts to engage the North, saying, "We should not only look to the U.S. to engage North Korea through talks but also do things we can on our own."
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