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Park apologizes again for scaled-back pension program for senior citizens

All Headlines 14:45 September 27, 2013

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye apologized again Friday for scaling back her election promise to give a monthly allowance to all senior citizens as the opposition stepped up criticism that she deceived voters with a false promise.

"I am truly regretful and apologetic that we could not help but make a revision (to the pension promise) without giving it to all the people as originally planned," Park said during a lunch meeting with representatives of senior citizens on the occasion of next week's Senior Citizens Day.

The "basic pension" plan was one of Park's key campaign pledges during last year's presidential election. It called for giving a monthly allowance of 200,000 won (US$186) to all senior citizens aged 65 or above regardless of their income levels.

But under the recently announced budget proposal for next year, the pension scheme was cut back in a way that pays a monthly allowance of between 100,000 and 200,000 won only to the poorest 70 percent of senior citizens aged 65 or above, rather than all of them.

Officials blamed a tight budget for the revision.

"Amid global economic difficulties, our tax revenues are very much insufficient and the country's fiscal situation is also in bad shape," Park said of the reason to scale back the pension plan during Friday's meeting.

Park offered her first public apology for the revision on Thursday. Still, she said the change does not mean she has abandoned the campaign promise. She also promised to try to expand the pension program during the remainder of her five-year term to fulfill the campaign promise.

The main opposition Democratic Party has since intensified attacks on Park, calling her government an "unfilial administration" that duped senior citizens with a false promise of pensions in an attempt to win their votes.

"If she had thought it would be OK to deceive people with a sweet lie ahead of the election, she is such a bad president," DP leader Kim Han-gil said in a meeting with civic groups. "If she had thought in advance that it would be enough to just say 'I am sorry' after becoming president, then she is an even worse president."

jschang@yna.co.kr
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