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Candidates offer similar diagnosis but different remedies for economy

All News 15:02 April 13, 2017

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- Leading presidential candidates here were in near agreement Thursday on what may have caused ongoing difficulties facing the local economy, but again remained apart on how to solve such problems.

In a TV debate, all five leading presidential hopefuls noted the ongoing economic slump in Asia's fourth-largest economy may have been partly caused by a drop in household income.

But as to what caused the drop in income and how to address the issue, they all differed.

Front-runner Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party blamed large conglomerates for not paying their employees enough, which in turn has led to even less wages for workers at small and medium-sized companies through a chain effect.

Candidates offer similar diagnosis but different remedies for economy - 1

"We must shift our economic paradigm toward income-oriented growth. I will work to create quality jobs in both the public and private sectors and reduce the wage gap between workers at large and smaller firms," he said in the pre-recorded debate.

The first TV debate involving all five presidential candidates before the May 9 election was jointly hosted by local broadcaster SBS and the Korea Journalists Association. It was set to be aired later Thursday.

The five candidates include Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party and Hong Joon-pyo of the former ruling Liberty Korea Party. The rest are Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the splinter conservative Bareun Party and Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the progressive Justice Party.

Ahn, the runner-up in recent polls on the upcoming election, agreed on a need to narrow the wage gap between workers at large and smaller companies, but he also pointed out the gap between full-time and temporary workers as another major factor adding to a dip in household income.

Yoo of the conservative Bareun Party pledged additional support for small and medium-sized enterprises, noting they account for most jobs, while Sim, the most progressive of all candidates, said she would raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won an hour if elected, and put a ceiling on monthly rent on shops to ensure greater profit for small self-employed businesses.

The minimum wage currently stands at 6,470 won (US$5.74) per hour.

Hong, on the other hand, lashed out at what he called "militant" and "aristocratic" labor unions.

The prosecutor-turned-politician noted such union leaders accounted for less than 3 percent of all workers here, but were the main reason many South Korean businesses were going offshore, and thus a reason for a drop in the number of jobs here.

"These people in fact are the ones who enjoy special privileges while hurting the South Korean economy," he said.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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