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Rival parties roll out pledges to win over older voters in April elections

Rep. Lee Jae-myung, left, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), poses with Han Dong-hoon, the interim leader of the ruling People Power Party, at DPK headquarters in  Seoul, Dec. 29, 2023. Newsis

Rival parties are ramping up promises for older voters ahead of the upcoming April 10 general elections. With projections that the country will soon become a super-aged society, with more than 20 percent of the population aged 65 or older, the influence of older voters has become an increasingly crucial consideration in the political arena .Both ruling and opposition parties have unveiled pledges targeting older voters, including caregiving expense subsidies, free meals at community centers and more housing benefits. The ruling People Power Party (PPP) pledged to make retirement homes and communities more accessible. The party aims to simplify approval and construction processes for these facilities by enacting a special law. Currently, Korea lags far behind Japan in terms of retirement housing, with only 8,840 people residing in 39 such facilities in Korea compared to 630,000 people at 16,724 facilities in Japan .The PPP also plans to increase the number of welfare housing units to 20,000 by 2027 from the current government plan of 5,000. It also proposed more employment projects for older adults, to offer jobs to 10 percent of the older population by 2027.”We aim to create an environment where not only affluent older adults but also those from the working and middle classes can move into [retirement communities],” said Rep. Yu Eui-dong, the PPP’s chief policymaker. “We will enable older adults to contribute to the local community through job activities.”

In response, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) made a series of related pledges, including free lunches at community centers five days a week. The party said the country should take responsibility for feeding older people and address regional disparities in meal support for them. Currently, meal support is available in only 42 percent of older adult community centers nationwide, with a wide disparity among regions, such as 97.9 percent in Daejeon and only 1 percent in Daegu. The PPP made a similar pledge later but proposed seven days a week instead of five .The DPK was the first to promise caregiver expense support. In November, a month before the government announced its caregiver expense support policy, the party pledged to subsidize such expenses, making it a key pledge for the upcoming elections. “It seems that the increasing demand for caregiving has become an enormous burden on families, not only economically but also psychologically, creating truly difficult situations,” Rep. Lee Jae-myung, 토토사이트 chairman of the DPK, said in December during his visit to a community center for older adults.

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