President Park strives to placate public over tax burden

President Park strives to placate public over tax burden
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

President Park Geun-hye administration is seeking ways to soothe salaried workers over their increased tax burdens arising from a new tax settlement system.

During her first meeting with the presidential aides this year on Monday, Park called for those present to open more communication channels with the public, citing salaried employees' growing anger.

"Not to shoulder the public heavier burden from the annual taxation scheme, it is necessary to map out the method (to make up for the pending side-effects)," Park told her aides.

She stressed the discontent came from insufficient communication with the public when policymakers changed the tax system.

Her remarks came several weeks ahead of the due date for tax settlements, when the authorities deduct a variety of withholding taxes from the workers' annual income each February. Park's approval ratings recently hit a new low of 34.1 per cent.

Under the new system, the authorities levy less taxes throughout the year and return less in tax settlements at the beginning of a new year. The key issue is that workers who did not spend much through the year face greater tax burdens in February.

Though the Finance Ministry had asserted that the new scheme was aimed at improvement in wealth distribution, there are concerns that more middle and low-income workers could eventually be subject to higher taxation.

The meeting drew attention as four extraordinary aides, who was appointed early Monday, joined discussions with the senior presidential secretaries. The post of extraordinary aide have been created to bolster communications with the public.

Public support for Park waned further last week, after preliminary calculations of this year's tax settlements showed that taxpayers nationwide could end up paying more taxes, or receive much smaller rebates than expected. Revisions to tax codes in 2013 by the government were blamed for the increased taxes.

Meanwhile, the leader of the main opposition party on Monday denounced Cheong Wa Dae for Friday's personnel reshuffle.

"The public had continued to call on the presidential office to drastically revamp the aides' organisation after (the behind-the-scenes) power struggle scandal. But (the president) still showed credibility toward Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and three core secretaries," said Moon Hee-sang, chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Moon said the administration had glossed over public opinion as it conducted the overhaul without dismissal of the chief of staff and some others, who were seen as accountable for the scandal.

In contrast, the opposition leader highly assessed Prime Minister nominee Lee Wan-koo. "He pushed forth wide communications with opposition lawmakers as a floor leader of the (ruling) Saenuri Party."

Moon, however, vowed to thoroughly review his personal records in the coming confirmation hearings of the National Assembly.

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