S Korea's Lee vows welfare program focuses on "most vulnerable"

13:13, June 27, 2011      

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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed Monday to extend welfare benefits to the most vulnerable in a "huge blind spot" in the country's social welfare system.

"Many people in need did not have sufficient information about government support programs, and many resident registrations were canceled," the president said in his biweekly radio address to the public, mentioning cases of those who have been left unattended.

"The government has so far striven to knit the welfare net more tightly, but still much remains to be done," he added. "Ideally, each and every person in the nation should be allowed to enjoy welfare benefits. Still, the top priority has to be placed on the most vulnerable."

The government is committed to a so-called "tailor-made welfare policy" focused on the most vulnerable, Lee said, criticizing those ineligible receiving welfare benefits through illegal means.

The remarks by the conservative, deficit-wary president contrast with opinions of liberal and left-leaning opposition lawmakers, who have made bold promises of introducing universal welfare programs ranging from free school meals, free medical services to free child care.

With welfare issues expected to dominate key parliamentary and presidential elections next year, however, Lee and his ruling party, traditionally welfare foes, have been increasingly vocal on welfare issues while attacking the opposition camp for "populist" policy pledges.

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