President Park Geun-hye on Monday voiced opposition to raising taxes to fund welfare spending, a move that could set her on a collision course with the main opposition party.
Park has been under fire for sticking to her key campaign pledge to deliver better welfare without raising taxes. The policy has drawn criticism even from her ruling party that it is impossible to provide welfare without raising taxes.
She was critical of calls from some lawmakers that the government should raise taxes to make up a revenue shortfall, saying the government did not do its best in revitalizing the economy.
Park speaks in a regular meeting with her top aides at the presidential office on Monday.(Yonhap)
"We should seriously think about whether we have done all we can before placing an additional burden on the public," Park said in a regular meeting with her top aides at the presidential office.
"What is important is to find ways to solidify welfare while minimizing public burden."
South Korea has about a 20 trillion won ($18 billion) shortfall in tax revenue as protracted slow growth undermined the tax base.
She reiterated calls for revitalizing the economy, saying it will help create more jobs and raise tax revenues, further alleviating the public's financial concerns.
"I ask the parliament again to quickly pass bills meant to revitalize the economy," Park said.
Park's ruling Saenuri Party commands a parliamentary majority with 158 seats in the 295-member National Assembly, which can allow the ruling party to push bills through the parliament unilaterally without cooperation from the main opposition party.
Park's comments came as Moon Jae-in, the new leader of the main opposition party, vowed to raise the corporate tax rate and withdraw tax cuts for the rich in what he described as an attempt to establish a fair tax system.
South Korea's corporate tax rate on taxable income exceeding 20 billion won was lowered from 25 percent to 22 percent during the preceding Lee Myung-bak administration.
Moon, who had lost the presidential election to then ruling party candidate and now president Park in 2012, was elected chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy in a national convention on Sunday.
Kim Moo-sung, the chairman of the ruling party, voiced support for the president's stance.
"The Saenuri Party and the Park Geun-hye government are bound together by a common destiny, and the Saenuri Party will become a reliable assistance force and help (solve) the president's problems," he said in a meeting with foreign correspondents in Seoul.
He added that the best solution to the welfare controversy would be a "grand social compromise," which he acknowledged would not be an easy task.
Also Monday, Park called for more slashing of the country's red tape to make it easier for mergers and acquisition of local startups as part of efforts to revitalize startups and venture firms. (Yonhap)