By Yun Suh-young
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon will increase next year’s welfare budget by about 300 billion won to better support lower-income households, a city official said Sunday.
“Park, at a welfare policy coordination meeting last week, told officials to create a guideline on the minimum living expenses needed per citizen,” the official said. “He said Seoul should have such a guideline in accordance with OECD standards.”
From when he was a mayoral candidate, Park pledged to make Seoul a city where “all citizens could live with dignity,” putting top priority on improving welfare. Creating the guideline for the minimum living expenses was one of his major election pledges.
“If the guideline is set to ensure more welfare spending, the welfare budget will increase by 300 billion won from its current budget to reach 3.2 trillion won,” the city official said.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will spend part of the money to hire more welfare experts to develop related policies.
Mayor Park, a former civic activist, also ordered city officials to create standards in providing aid to the poor. Park said the amount of aid provided for the poor in the city should be differentiated from that allotted for the needy in the countryside, according to the city official.
If the budget for Park’s “welfare utopia” which encompasses housing, family welfare and education is once included in the general welfare budget, the amount will be much higher, the official said.
Park plans to increase the portion of welfare budget to the total budget to 30 percent during his term, which will end in June 2014. Currently, 21.4 percent of Seoul City’s budget is used for welfare.
The agenda includes expanding public childcare centers, creating more jobs for adolescents and increasing the number of disabled-friendly buses. On his first day in office, he approved the program to finance free lunches to all elementary school students from this month. This was another one of his key campaign pledges.
At the policy coordination meeting, Park explained his philosophy about the country’s welfare. Park said that the role of civil servants should be as a “coordinator” instead of trying to do everything on their own. “We need to change the paradigm of the administration,” Park said.