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debt relief fund-expansion

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- The financial regulator said Monday it will expand the debt relief fund designed to help heavy borrowers clear debts to include more possible applicants, taking the program's high demand into account.

According to the Financial Services Commission (FSC), the country's top financial regulator, more than 110,000 applicants have so far signed up for the state-run debt relief program, known as the National Happiness Fund.

During the April 22-30 preliminary application period, nearly 100,000 people lined up in the queue, with another 20,000 coming in to apply since the beginning of this month, the FSC said.

Launched in late March, the 1.5 trillion-won (US$1.353 billion) fund is aimed at helping delinquent borrowers settle their debts by offering a lower interest rate and an extended maturity.

An eligible applicant should have less than 100 million won in debts that have been in arrears for more than six months as of February.

The cumulative number of applicants so far is much higher than what the government had anticipated, reflecting the demand for such a government-led debt relief program, an FSC official said.

The financial authorities will expand the fund to more possible recipients, including those who have applied for other similar debt relief programs that were already available before the Happiness Fund was launched.

"We've found out that the most applicants were in the underprivileged social status, and so (we) came up with a decision to include more candidates," the FSC official said.

The government expects the final number of the total applicants to go as high as 700,000, from the initial prediction of 326,000, according to the FSC.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/130520/debt-relief-fund-expansion