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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 10)

All Headlines 07:04 September 10, 2018

Flawed proposal
Main opposition slammed for 'birth-led' growth

A speech at the National Assembly on Sept. 6 by Rep. Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), is drawing a strong backlash from social media and other parties.

During the speech, Kim heavily criticized the Moon Jae-in administration's income-led growth centered on controversial measures such as the minimum wage hike and shorter workweek. For revitalizing the economy, Kim instead proposed "birth-led" growth to respond to the record-low birthrate. The latest Statistics Korea report showed that the number of newborns numbered just 357,800 in 2017, the lowest in 48 years. The birthrate plummeted to 0.97 in the second quarter of this year, falling below the one child mark for the first time ever.

Amid such a grave situation, it is natural for the main opposition leader to bring up the subject of promoting the birthrate during a National Assembly speech. However, Kim's birth-led growth proposal is merely an empty political slogan rather than an effective policy suggestion stemming from a firm determination to create better conditions for parents and babies.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the opposition parties slammed Kim for the flawed proposal. We believe the concept is wrong for several reasons. First, it could be viewed as placing the primary blame on women for the population crisis, one of the most serious problems facing the country. Second, it shows disrespect toward women. DPK policy chief Kim Tae-nyeon said the term "birth-led growth" was "problematic" during a meeting at the National Assembly. "The LKP's view that women are tools for economic growth is very vulgar," Kim said.
Last but not least, it cannot be a fundamental solution to the birthrate crisis. It is not the lack of government subsidies that is keeping Koreans from having children. Kim proposed a state subsidy of 20 million won ($17,800) per baby, and providing 100 million won in total by the time the child reaches adulthood. This kind of approach is no different from past and current administrations that failed with their pro-baby policies. The LKP has blasted the Moon administration's increase of childcare subsidies, so it is uncertain how such a costly policy can be carried out consistently.

It is disappointing that the floor leader of the main opposition party only mocked the government during the speech, rather than proposing rational alternatives to improve conditions to boost the birthrate.


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