By Kang Hyun-kyung
The election watchdog issued a warning to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance Thursday for violating the Election Law by releasing a report that gave social policies specific price tags.
The National Election Commission (NEC) urged the finance ministry to remain neutral ahead of the April 11 National Assembly elections.
This is the first time the NEC has issued such a warning against a ministry or government agency for violating the Election Law.
Article 9 of the law stipulates that political parties conduct campaigns in a free and fair manner and government agencies or ministries must not do anything that can affect the campaign, the NEC said in a statement.
“The finance ministry released a report that analyzed political parties’ social policies and suggested projected price tags,” it said. “The report highlighted that their visions would require the government to overspend financial resources for welfare programs and this is seen as an attempt to affect voters’ decisions ahead of the April 11 elections.”
The NEC sent a letter urging the finance ministry to remain neutral and not to violate the Election Law again.
The election watchdog’s announcement came a day after the finance ministry released a report estimating the cost of welfare programs envisioned by political parties.
It said executing welfare-related campaign promises by the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) over the next five years would cost the country at least 268 trillion won (nearly $238 billion) which accounts for a quarter of the gross domestic product.
Vice Minister Kim Dong-yeon told reporters that more money might be needed due to the rising demand for social services and the aging population.
The assessment came as the ruling party and the DUP announced a spending spree on social welfare programs to curry favor with voters ahead of the elections. Their populist pledges have invited criticism from experts and policymakers.