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### Empowering Youth: Yoon Vows Scholarships, Benefits, and Opportunities

President Yoon Suk Yeol, who was on the left, delivered a speech during the 17th public livelihood debate on youth policies at Ivex Studio in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

During a town hall meeting on Tuesday, President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to enhance state scholarships, study abroad opportunities, tax benefits, and savings programs for the youth. He proposed expanding the number of recipients of state scholarships from 1 million college students to 1.5 million individuals, among other initiatives, to address the concerns of young people in the country.

The focus of the 17th public livelihood debate was on youth policies, covering areas such as support for college tuition, housing, and child care. The event brought together approximately 460 officials and young civilians to address the challenges faced by the younger generation, including declining marriage rates and low birthrates.

To alleviate students’ rental concerns, the government announced the introduction of a new housing scholarship offering up to 2.4 million won ($1,800) annually. Additionally, the number of recipients of “work scholarships” will increase from 120,000 to 200,000 starting next year, enabling students to earn money for tuition and living expenses both on and off campus while studying and working.

President Yoon emphasized the importance of enabling young people to pursue their studies and careers without financial worries, ensuring that economic reasons do not hinder their educational opportunities. He also committed to fully exempting maternity allowances provided by companies to their employees, aiming to reduce the burden on businesses and allow more workers to benefit.

In response to concerns about taxes on maternity leave allowances, the government will now exempt employees from income tax on such payments, while also allowing companies to deduct maternity allowances to lessen their corporate tax obligations.

These policy measures are part of the government’s efforts to address the country’s low birthrate, which is influenced by challenges such as affordable housing, delayed marriages, and access to adequate child care.

In a related development, the Finance Ministry announced amendments to the Income Tax Act to exempt income tax on maternity subsidies paid by companies to employees within two years of giving birth.

Furthermore, the government plans to implement an advance payment system for child support, prioritizing single parents who do not receive child support to receive state stipends promptly.

President Yoon also vowed to expand opportunities for young people to save money for the future, mentioning the “Youth Leap” savings accounts. The eligibility criteria for the Youth Leap program will be relaxed to include single-person households earning around 5 million won per month or dual-income households earning over 8 million won. Additionally, the account maintenance period will be reduced from five years to three years, allowing flexibility for young individuals to utilize the funds as needed.

To promote the well-being of young people, the government will introduce income tax deductions for cultural and fitness expenses, such as memberships for swimming pools and fitness centers. Moreover, there will be increased support for youths to access psychological counseling services.

President Yoon highlighted the government’s commitment to enhancing the global competencies of young individuals through initiatives like international student exchange programs and working holiday opportunities. He specifically mentioned the Korea WEST exchange program, which enables Korean university students and young professionals to intern and study English in the United States.

Recognizing the achievements of young figures like K-pop stars BTS and Blackpink, footballer Son Heung-min, and Esports legend Faker, President Yoon emphasized the importance of supporting talented young people to reach their full potential on the global stage. He stressed the significance of integrating the perspectives of young individuals in shaping a fair and just society.

In conclusion, President Yoon pledged to increase the involvement of young people in governmental affairs to collectively build a brighter future for the country.

BY SARAH KIM [[email protected]]

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at the 17th public livelihood debate on youth policies at Ivex Studio in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]