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Seoul mayor moves to introduce free meals at kindergartens

National 17:18 May 04, 2021

SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said Tuesday he plans to introduce free meals at kindergartens at the request of the city council.

Speaking to reporters at City Hall, Oh said he unveiled the plan during a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day and will discuss the details with the council.

"In consultation with the council, the City of Seoul will commission a study to calculate the cost of the meals and the financial burden and move quickly to introduce free meals at kindergartens," he said.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon (R) walks side by side with Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki to a Cabinet meeting at the government complex in Seoul on May 4, 2021. (Yonhap)

Due to potential questions about fairness, the mayor said he asked the central government to help come up with a plan for the cost of meals at daycare centers as well, noting that children between the ages of three and five can attend either type of facility.

In Seoul, the average cost of meals at kindergartens is set at 3,100 won (US$2.76), while at daycare centers the cost is 2,600 won for babies and 3,000 won for toddlers.

"What we are hearing from the field is that with the current meal fees it is difficult to guarantee high-quality meals or snacks," Oh said.

Asked if it is necessary to give free meals at kindergartens in addition to elementary, middle and high schools as is currently the case, the mayor said there is no reason to exclude kindergartens or daycare centers.

Oh, who is a member of the main opposition People Power Party, took office last month after being elected again to the post he stepped down from in 2011 in protest of what was then an opposition-led free school meal program.

"In implementing welfare policies, I believe we are past the point of arguing each time about whether they should be applied selectively, uniformly or universally," he said.

Currently, the city council is dominated by the ruling Democratic Party.

The Seoul education office welcomed Oh's remarks, saying it hopes to quickly form a task force with the municipal government and local ward offices to handle the issue of free meals at kindergartens.


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