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Ruling party pushes opposition over virus relief funds

Politics 11:38 April 22, 2020

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Wednesday continued to press the main opposition party over its changed stance on doling out funds to minimize the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The two parties have been embroiled in a complicated debate over the scope of the relief funds. The DP has called for payments to all citizens, while the United Future Party (UFP) has sided with the government on limiting the beneficiaries to those who fall in the lower 70 percent of income earners in a turnaround from its election pledge to pay money to all citizens.

"The UFP should clarify its ultimate stance on the emergency disaster relief funds," DP floor leader Lee In-young said in a meeting.

"It will only amplify political mistrust in the UFP if (it) turns a blind eye to its key campaign policy now that the election is over and that it has lost," urging the conservative party to fulfill its "duty" by explaining its stance in detail.

Democratic Party floor leader Lee In-young presides over a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on April 22, 2020, while party leader Lee Hae-chan is on holiday. (Yonhap)

The UFP suffered a critical blow in the April 15 general elections, securing just over 100 seats in the 300-seat unicameral National Assembly. The DP, meanwhile, clinched 180 seats.

Both parties had rolled out bids on expanding relief funds ahead of the election.

The government earlier suggested limiting funds to people whose income falls in the lower 70 percent bracket. Under the plan, a four-person household who fit the criteria would get 1 million won (US$808).

In the run-up to the election, former UFP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn, who stepped down following the party's loss, had proposed paying 500,000 won to all citizens regardless of their income. The DP followed, suggesting scrapping the 70 percent threshold.

But following the election, the UFP shifted its stance, claiming that expanding the plan to all citizens will have limited impact on boosting consumption and also hurt the country's fiscal soundness.

The government, meanwhile, has appeared prudent on expanding the beneficiaries.

"To cope with a more difficult situation, there is the need for the government to save some room for the additional role of fiscal spending and issuance of state bonds," Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday.

Lee urged the UFP to clarify its official stance.

"We cannot continue to just wait. As soon as the UFP's official stance is confirmed, we will find the fastest possible way to give out the funds."

Lee said if the opposition's stance has officially shifted to the 70 percent plan, the DP will also review its measures accordingly.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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