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(LEAD) Lee vows efforts to improve conditions for working people

All Headlines 15:46 December 14, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional details from 10th para)
By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak on Monday called for greater government efforts to enhance the livelihood of ordinary citizens, forecasting that the nation's overall economic conditions will improve next year.

Receiving key policy briefings for next year from the welfare, labor, gender equality and veterans affairs ministries, Lee said working class citizens remain vulnerable to the ongoing global crisis though conditions for large businesses are slowly improving.

"I think corporate managers feel that conditions have returned to levels seen before the crisis, but ordinary citizens still cannot feel the positive change," Lee said, renewing his estimate that it would take at least one more year and possibly more before people begin to see signs of improving conditions.

"Our country is still a difficult one for ordinary citizens to live in and it is difficult for us (the government) to say when it will be better for them," he said.

The president's remarks came at the start of the joint policy briefing session by the four ministries held at Seoul Women's Plaza in southern Seoul. The meeting was the first of seven scheduled for all government ministries and agencies before the end of the year.

Government reports to the president on the upcoming year's objectives usually begin at the beginning of a new year, but Lee hurried to conclude the process before the year's end in 2008 and is doing so again this year to allow prompt implementation of government plans and budget from the very start of next year.

This will help those who are suffering from a lack of employment, the president noted.

"The government tried to help people by implementing scheduled spending from the very start of this year. But I am concerned government support for the people may dwindle if we relax our guard just because economic conditions have improved a little this year," the president said in the meeting.

"We must not be complacent. And that is why we are trying to conclude our reports before the end of the year as we did in 2008 and begin working to implement spending from Jan. 1 to provide even a little help to the people," he added.

The president also urged private businesses to do what they can to help ease difficulties facing the people, according to Kim Eun-hye, a spokeswoman for the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"President Lee said a social safety net cannot be created by just one government ministry. He said all government ministries must join their strengths and that government efforts alone will still not be enough to do it without major holes," Kim told a daily press briefing.

Lee noted government measures may seem somewhat centered around businesses, rather than the people themselves, because what the government is trying to do is foster and help businesses that will provide quality jobs for the people.

"Nice, quality jobs can be created when private firms grow," Lee was quoted as saying.

The president said the people also needed to do more to help themselves and each other.

"Our society's culture of donation is changing, but I think we need to especially specialize in the area of volunteers. We cannot say it is well balanced when we are a donor nation in the international community, but fail to look after our own," Lee said, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman.

South Korea currently sends some 10,000 volunteers overseas each year under its World Friends Korea program, the second largest volunteer program in the world following the United States' Peace Corps. Seoul plans to double the number by 2015.


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