Gov't, ruling party agree to raise soldiers' pay by 15 pct next year

SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- The government and the ruling Saenuri Party agreed Monday to increase soldiers' monthly pay by 15 percent next year as part of President Park Geun-hye's push to double their salary during her five-year term, the party's policymaker said.

Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok, Saenuri Party's policy maker Kim Ki-hyun and other senior officials held a meeting to fine-tune the 2014 budget proposal, which will be announced later this month.

The move comes after Park promised to double soldiers' pay during her election campaign to appeal to them and their parents who have long demanded a pay raise for mandatory military service, which is required by law for all-able bodied men.

If the budget bill is approved by the National Assembly, the pay of corporals, for example, will rise from the current 117,000 won (US$108) to 134,500 won per month starting next year, Kim said in a briefing.

Their current monthly pay is roughly equivalent to that of three days of work by a civilian employee getting paid the minimum wage of 4,850 won working eight hours a day.

The government and party officials also agreed to expand spending on welfare, education and cultural programs, allocating over 100 trillion won on social welfare services for the first time, Kim said.

The finance ministry earlier said government ministries and agencies have requested a 6.6 percent hike in their budgets, or a combined 364.7 trillion won, for next year as they seek to spend more on welfare, education, and research and development.

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