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Korean candidates seek to boost peace, welfare credentials

Publication Date : 26-09-2012

 

Rep. Park Geun-hye, presidential candidate of Korea's ruling Saenuri Party, yesterday visited a military unit in Gangwon Province, in her latest move to underscore her leadership in the realm of security.

Rep. Moon Jae-in, candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, visited the country’s northernmost Dorasan Station in an effort to promote his vision of peninsular peace and inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Meanwhile, independent presidential contender Ahn Cheol-soo carried on his campaign stressing the need for carefully planned welfare policies and his economic development model of an “innovative economy”.

Park, wearing a military uniform, met with troops involved in a government project to recover the remains of soldiers killed in action during the 1950-53 Korean War, and had a moment of silence to pay tribute.

The move came ahead of the October 1 Armed Forces Day and two months after she visited the Demilitarised Zone, the four-kilometre-wide buffer zone separating the two Koreas.

Amid continuing military threats from North Korea, some have raised the question of whether a female leader could exert strong military leadership in case of contingencies on the peninsula.

As part of efforts to dispel such concerns, she has visited military sites and stressed security and peace as a crucial foundation for sustainable economic growth, better welfare and national reunification.

At the frontline station, Moon emphasised his will to improve inter-Korean relations, which have worsened after Pyongyang launched two fatal attacks in 2010, with Seoul demanding an official apology.

“The Dorasan Station is a symbol of inter-Korean ties improved during the decade of the democratic (Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun) governments and of ties devastated by the Lee Myung-bak government. Our dream toward reunification has stopped here,” Moon said.

Moon has put forward an election pledge to usher in a “30-80 era” in which the nation sees a per-capita national income of US$30,000 and a population of 80 million through a virtual economic unification.

Accompanying Moon on his trip were five former ministers of Unification who served during the Kim and Roh administrations, including Chung Dong-young.

Speaking at a policy forum at a social enterprise in Seoul, Ahn emphasised the need for realistic welfare policies and hinted at his idea of how welfare and economic issues can be interlinked.

“Economic democratisation and welfare, which are the main topics of this age, need to be linked to innovative economy to be able to move forward like a two-wheeled bicycle,” Ahn said.

“If an environment that allows peoples to take on challenges with ease of mind is created through social safety nets and similar welfare, it will lead to innovative ideas and jobs.”

The academic-turned-politician showed a particular interest in welfare systems for the elderly, saying that Korea’s high poverty rate among the elderly showed an aspect of “cold-hearted capitalism”.

Ahn also criticised the current administration’s approach to welfare policies citing the scrapped plans for state-funded education for infants up to the age of two.

Saying that the plans being abandoned after only a few months was an example of the reasons behind the public’s distrust of the government, Ahn said that related developments were “evidence that shows how welfare requires realistic and elaborate planning”.

 

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