President Moon Jae-in called on the National Assembly on Thursday to approve the government's expansionary budget proposal for next year and cooperate to bring permanent peace with North Korea.
Moon made the appeal in a budget speech, outlining key points and intentions of the government's 470.5 trillion-won (US$422 billion) spending plan for next year, a super budget that marks a sharp 9.7 percent rise from this year's.
The address came amid a grim outlook for Asia's fourth-largest economy, with the government and economic agencies slashing growth forecasts for next year, the stock market plummeting and the job situation remaining bleak.
"We achieved economic growth of the 3 percent level last year, but we've gone back to a 2 percent level growth this year. The possibility is high that low growth of 2 percent levels, which began many years ago, will continue," Moon said.
"External conditions are not good either. The global economy is going downhill due to the spreading protectionism, trade disputes and hikes in U.S. interest rates. These can be greater burdens for us as our economy's external dependence is high," he said. "Therefore, it's time for the public finances to play more active roles," he said.
Moon also stressed that it is important to use public finances to deal preemptively with risks of economic downturn and tackle jobs, polarization and other problems. International agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, are also recommending expansionary finances, he said.
Moon called for bolstering welfare programs and social safety nets to realize an "inclusive society."
"We have to be a nation where people are at ease within social safety nets and welfare programs, and where fair opportunities and just outcomes are guaranteed. We have to be a nation where not a single person is discriminated against," he said. "This is an inclusive nation where everyone is well off together."
Moon also called for parliamentary support for his peace drive with North Korea, saying the ongoing peace and denuclearization process is an "opportunity that came like a miracle" and should never be missed.
"A second North-U.S. summit is just around the corner. A visit to Russia by Chairman Kim Jong-un and a visit to North Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to take place in the near future. The possibility of a North-Japan summit also remains open. A return visit to Seoul by Chairman Kim Jong-un will also take place soon," he said.
"A historic starting point for co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is just ahead of us. We will be going beyond the Eurasian continent by train and moving toward a multilateral peace and security regime through a railway community (of nations)," he said. "This is an opportunity that came like a miracle. This is an opportunity that we should never miss."
Unless this opportunity is seized, the Korean Peninsula could plunge again into a crisis, he said.
"I earnestly request that the National Assembly work with us on the Korean Peninsula denuclearization and peace process," Moon said. "We have to combine our strength to keep this opportunity alive."
Moon also said the government will do everything it can to support the proposed inter-Korean parliamentary talks. (Yonhap News)