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President vows all-out support for child rearing

2018/01/24 14:35

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SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in promised to greatly expand government support for parents with young children Wednesday, vowing to more than triple the proportion of infants and kids nurtured at public centers within his presidential term.

The renewed pledge came during a special visit to a public child care center in Seoul.

"The government will have to do many things in the child care sector, but the most urgent task may be to increase the proportion of children using national and public kindergartens and child care centers. It has set a goal to increase that proportion to 40 percent during my term," the president said while meeting with children and their parents at a daycare center in Dobong Ward, the northeastern part of Seoul.

The proportion stood 12.9 percent as of end 2017, according to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The Moon Jae-in government added 373 new public daycare centers in just seven months since its inauguration in May, and plans to build 450 new centers each year over the next four years, the president noted. Moon's single five-year term ends in May 2022.

To this end, the government has earmarked over 8.76 trillion won (US$8.18 billion) for childcare alone this year, up more than 230 billion won from the previous year, Moon said, noting the 2018 budget for childcare nearly equaled the country's entire annual budget of the early 1980s.

The efforts to increase the number of children at public daycare centers is partly aimed at boosting the country's birthrate, the presidential office said in a press release.

South Korea's birthrate has remained one of the world's lowest for years, with high costs of living and child rearing often pointed to as two of many causes.

"The main objective of the childcare policy is to support healthy growth and development of young children while also supporting the coexistence of both work and life of their parents," Cheong Wa Dae said.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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