|Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun and Cabinet members hold an emergency workshop at the Government Complex Seoul, Saturday, when they agreed to return 30 percent of their salary for four months to fund the efforts to contain COVID-19. / Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
President Moon Jae-in and high-ranking government officials will return 30 percent of their monthly salary over the next four months to help fund nationwide efforts to combat COVID-19.
The Prime Minister's Secretariat said, Saturday, that Cabinet members and heads of government agencies decided to do this during an emergency workshop presided over by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun at the Government Complex in Seoul that day.
Their salary will be returned to the state coffers, and the finance ministry will use the money for quarantine efforts and support for people financially hit by the pandemic.
Moon, Chung, and minister- and vice minister-level officials will join the move, which will be applied to salaries this month through June.
"They agreed on the partial salary return to share pain with the people," the secretariat said in a press release.
An official of the secretariat said other high-level civil servants may follow suit.
Hours after the plan was made public, South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo said he would join the move.
"I'll join it if it can be even a little bit of help in overcoming the economic crisis caused by COVID-19," Kim said on Facebook. "I've been thinking of many ways to help the local economy, but I couldn't carry them out as they would be in violation of the Election Law. I'll return my salary to the state coffers so the money can be used in efforts to combat COVID-19."
But Kim expressed hopes that the salary return campaign would remain only for high-ranking officials. "Mid- and low-ranking working-level public servants have already been having a hard time for the coronavirus-control efforts, and I don't want them to feel pressured," he wrote.
The public response to the move was generally positive, with many internet users saying it was desirable for ranking officials show their willingness to share the hardship of the people.
At the same time, many urged lawmakers to do the same, or at least return a higher portion of their salary, criticizing them for doing nothing practical to aid the people but waste taxpayer's money.
"If any political party has its members return at least 30 percent of their salary, I'll cast my vote for it in the April general election," a blogger wrote on the Daim portal.
Reading such public sentiment, some ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) members have called for lawmakers' participation in the campaign.
Rep. Park Beom-kye suggested returning 50 percent of their salaries. "It is an emergency situation, and we need to do more if we can," he wrote on his Facebook.
Rep. Kim Du-kwan also said sharing the people's hardship was the duty of a responsible government and ruling party. "I hope the money returned by DPK members will be used to aid financially strained companies so they will not have to dismiss workers," he wrote on Facebook.