S. Korea parliament approves welfare-focused 2013 budget

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's parliament on Tuesday approved a revised government budget for 2013 that focuses more on welfare in response to the next president's pledge to increase social spending.

The legislature ratified total spending of 342 trillion won (S$393 billion), down from the government's proposal of 342.5 trillion.

It marked the first time in South Korea's history that a budget bill has been approved after the beginning of the fiscal year, which is the same as the calendar year.

The revised budget calls for cutting defence expenditure while spending more on social welfare and public construction projects.

Incoming president Park Geun Hye, who takes office next month, has promised to expand free child care, subsidise college tuition fees and increase support for the poor.

Welfare spending this year will reach about 100 trillion won, higher than the government's proposal of 97 trillion won.

Rival parties had pushed for a bolder fiscal policy to stimulate the economy but reached a deal with the government to save any such measures for the future.

The finance ministry has delayed its plan to achieve a balanced budget by a year until 2014. The country's overall sovereign debt was estimated at 34 per cent of gross domestic product in 2012.