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Yoon vows to expand senior welfare

Civic group files complaint against president alleging policy debates are for vote buying

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : March 21, 2024 - 14:07

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) shakes hands with a senior citizen who attended a policy debate held at the headquarters of the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service in Wonju, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Pool photo via Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) shakes hands with a senior citizen who attended a policy debate held at the headquarters of the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service in Wonju, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Pool photo via Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol announced plans to expand senior welfare in South Korea, where a fifth of the population is aged 65 or older, at yet another policy debate he presided over Thursday morning.

Yoon laid out support packages for senior citizens in the country, which is experiencing fast-paced population aging, as 1 in 4 South Korean citizens will be aged 65 or older by 2030.

"Comprehensive measures ranging from living, food, medical services and nursing are needed for senior citizens," Yoon said at the 22nd policy debate session held in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

Yoon noted that Seoul will build more senior living facilities where food, laundry and senior care services are combined. Deregulation will be in place to lower the entry barrier for service providers outsourcing the tasks of these facilities, and the facilities will primarily target middle-class senior citizens aged 60 or above.

Separately, rental housing for senior citizens who cannot afford a house will increase to reach 3,000 nationwide, up from the current level of 1,000.

Meanwhile, food service will also be improved at senior centers, or community centers for the elderly citizens locally dubbed "gyeongnodang." Currently, 42 percent of senior centers, or some 28,000 locations, provide meals for an average of 3.6 days a week, according to a government estimate. The government did not lay out the exact blueprint for its senior center meal expansion plan.

To encourage self-reliance among senior citizens, the government also laid out its policy goal of having 10 percent of all senior citizens be employed by 2027. Some 1 million senior citizens are to be employed by the end of 2024, as the government seeks to add 147,000 jobs this year.

Relevant medical services will also be expanded, Yoon said, in part by increasing the number of facilities dedicated to door-to-door medical services from the current 95 to 250 nationwide.

Earlier in January, the government projected the number of South Korean citizens aged 60 or above would surpass the 10 million mark for the first time in history within the year.

Members of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a civic group, speaks to reporters as it filed a complaint against President Yoon Suk Yeol over his alleged violation of the Public Official Election Act near the National Election Commission headquarters in Seoul Thursday, (Yonhap) Members of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a civic group, speaks to reporters as it filed a complaint against President Yoon Suk Yeol over his alleged violation of the Public Official Election Act near the National Election Commission headquarters in Seoul Thursday, (Yonhap)

Thursday's policy debate was the latest in a series of sessions held by the Yoon administration across the country since January to promote its flagship policies, such as land use deregulations and pledges to create jobs.

In response, a civic group on Thursday filed a complaint against Yoon with the election authorities over whether laying out promises at policy debates constitutes a violation of the Public Official Election Act.

The People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy claimed that Yoon's policy debates "unjustly influence voters of the (general election in April)" as it filed the complaint with the National Election Commission in Seoul.

It added that its spending package announcements often fail to indicate the exact amount of state budget investment, or mislead the public by including private-sector spending in its pledges, calling these pledges "vote-buying policy announcements."