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(2nd LD) President urges approval for extra budget, citing possible crisis

All News 15:26 June 12, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS 8th para to verify the 4.2 percent jobless rate marks the highest level in 17 years for April; UPDATES with additional information in last 7 paras; REPLACES photos)

SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in called for swift action by the parliament to create an extra budget Monday, saying the budget may not be enough to solve all the problems facing the nation but the country may soon face a crisis without it.

"Economy requires (the right measures) at the right time," the president said in a state of the nation address delivered at the National Assembly.

The nationally televised address marked the first of its kind since Moon came into office May 10. He noted it also marked the first presidential address ever for the passage of a supplementary budget bill.

President Moon Jae-in (front) delivers his state of the nation address at the National Assembly in Seoul on June 12, 2017. (Yonhap)

"I heard this was the first state of the nation address for an extra budget in our history. I wish you would consider it as part of my efforts to better communicate and work with the National Assembly. But what I want you to pay more attention to is the urgency of a supplementary budget for jobs," he said.

Moon's trip to the parliament came as the government is seeking an 11.2 trillion-won (US$9.95 billion) extra budget.

A government bill on the additional budget was submitted only last week, but the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) clearly remains against it, insisting the law requires anticipation of an economic slump and resulting mass unemployment for an extra budget.

The president asserted the country's unemployment rate was already at a record high level, which he said will lead to a crisis if left untouched.

The president noted the country's jobless rate came to 4.2 percent in April, the highest for the month in 17 years, while the jobless rate of people aged between 15 and 29 years came to to 11.2 percent, also the highest level for the month since the country began compiling such data in 1999.

"If we leave such high unemployment rates alone, we may face an economic crisis that is as serious as a national disaster," Moon said.

The president said most of the additional government spending, if approved, will go to create up to 110,000 new jobs, especially for youth.

They will include some 12,000 new jobs in the public safety and security sector, such as new police officers, fire fighters and animal quarantine officials. Another 24,000 new jobs will be added in the social services sector as the government also seeks to build up to 360 new state-run child care centers.

The money will also help create up to 5,000 new jobs in the private sector. The government will provide wages for every third new worker hired at a small or medium-sized enterprise for up to three years, the president said.

"I say this once again, but new jobs are at the heart of a solution for our problems. Of course, it is difficult to solve everything at once. But we must do what we can and do it now," he added.

President Moon said the new, quality jobs the government seeks to create will also help address the distribution issue, which he said is causing various social problems.

In 2016, the average income of people in the lower 20 percent bracket slipped 5.6 percent on-year while that of people in the upper 20 percent bracket gained 2.1 percent, he noted, adding the gap between the two groups has widened for five consecutive quarters.

"There is only one solution. That is to increase the number of good, quality jobs. We need to realize a great shift in our economic paradigm where we will achieve growth by creating new jobs, instead of expecting new jobs as the result of growth," the president said.

"I ask for your active cooperation to have the bill on the extra budget passed at the earliest date possible, so it can create the positive effect we expect," he added.

Representatives of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party listen to President Moon Jae-in's address to the nation at the National Assembly on June 12, 2017. The opposition lawmakers had small signposts in front of their desk-top screens, urging the Moon administration to withdraw some of its nominations for new ministers. (Yonhap)

President Moon has promised to create 810,000 new jobs in the public sector alone during his five-year term.

Still, his trip to the parliament came amid strong objections from opposition parties, partly over the supplementary budget but also over some of the president's nominees for new ministers.

The president sought to win the opposition's support in a meeting with leaders of all major parties before delivering his speech at the National Assembly.

The main opposition boycotted the meeting, while three minor opposition parties agreed to at least begin their deliberation of the bill on the extra budget.

"It is true that leaders of the LKP did not attend today's meeting. But we still have faith in the LKP. We believe the party will continue to look for ways to serve the people through cooperation at the National Assembly," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun told a press briefing.

The LKP controls 107 seats in the 300-seat parliament. However, with the three minor opposition parties holding an additional 66 seats, the entire opposition bloc controls 173 seats in the unicameral house.

The ruling Democratic Party has 120 seats, the largest number for any single party, but still far short of a house majority.


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