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Ruling party kicks off review of new round of emergency relief handouts

Politics 16:06 January 06, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) has kicked off a review of a potential fourth round of stimulus checks, with a focus on whether they should be given to all or only business owners hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as the government is to start providing some 9.3 trillion won (US$8.6 billion) next Monday to small merchants reeling from the COVID-19 outbreak as part of the country's third round of emergency coronavirus response handouts.

Including the 14.3 trillion won in stimulus checks for all households doled out in May last year, South Korea has so far drawn up three rounds of emergency handouts in response to the pandemic.

The need for a fresh, fourth round of stimulus checks was voiced by DP Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon last week during his interview with Yonhap News Agency.

"(The party) will be able to review (the provision of) disaster relief funds for all nationals should the COVID-19 outbreaks subside and a need to stimulate the economy be raised," Lee said in the interview.

Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon speaks during a meeting of the top party council on Jan. 6, 2021, at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Sources inside the DP said the party has begun reviewing when and to whom the potential new round of emergency handouts should be distributed.

The party may fix the scope of recipients of the envisioned assistance -- either to all nationals or only affected business owners -- depending on the future trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to party sources.

"If the coronavirus outbreaks continue, the focus should be on supporting affected groups such as businesses restricted (by social distancing measures), while payments to all nationals could be considered as part of economic stimulus and national consolation in the event of a letup in the pandemic," a party official stated.

Another key party member also said "the first round of emergency handouts this year needs to be more drastic and available for all people."

Rep. Yang Hyang-ja, a member of the DP's top council, put 1 million won as a "reasonable" size of emergency handouts for a four-member family during a recent media interview.

The fourth round of disaster relief funds, if it is fixed to benefit all nationals, may cost some 15 trillion won of taxpayers' money, possibly forcing the government to seek an extra budget.

"After watching the coronavirus situation through mid-January, (the DP) may review the necessity of drawing up an extra budget," another DP official added.

A street in the famous shopping district of Myeongdong in central Seoul remains empty in December 2020 amid strict social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Yonhap)


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