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Presidential office voices displeasure with population committee vice chief

All News 10:59 January 09, 2023

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- The office of President Yoon Suk Yeol openly voiced displeasure after the head of a presidential population committee proposed massive spending on curbing low birthrates without prior consultation with the top office.

Some aides have even called for sacking Na Kyung-won, a former four-term lawmaker currently heading the Presidential Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy as its vice chair, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Yoon is the committee's ex officio chair.

The row between Na and the presidential office has also spurred speculation that Yoon might be against her taking over as new chairperson of the ruling People Power Party. Na is one of the leading contenders for the PPP leadership.

The dispute began after Na told a press conference last week South Korea should adopt policies similar to those of Hungary, under which the government would allow couples to take out a 40 million-won (US$32,020) loan when getting married.

After the birth of their first child, the loan would become interest-free, while after the birth of their second or third child, the loan would be canceled in part or in full, she said.

Na Kyung-won, vice chief of the Presidential Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy, gives a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2023. (Yonhap)

Na Kyung-won, vice chief of the Presidential Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy, gives a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2023. (Yonhap)

"The fact that she unilaterally announced policies that were completely uncoordinated with the president, who is the committee chief, is incomprehensible and inappropriate behavior," a senior presidential official told Yonhap News Agency. "It's very disappointing."

The official claimed Na announced her policy despite objections from the prime minister's office and the finance ministry, which made clear to her that they diverged from the administration's principles.

"By pressing ahead with the announcement, she was being oblivious to the fact that she is a member of the executive branch," the official said, warning such behavior "can't be neglected any longer."

The presidential office had said last week Na's policy contradicted the administration's policy principles, but the former lawmaker maintained in a Facebook post that the nation's "low birth rate cannot be overcome without money."

The public clash between the presidential office and Na, a former four-term lawmaker of the ruling People Power Party, has led to speculation of a rift over her planned bid for party leadership.

A presidential official denied such speculation, saying there is talk within the presidential office of the need to dismiss her from the population committee.


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