President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday South Korea should guard against populist policies and maintain its fiscal health unless it wants to face Greece's fate, hit by a debt crisis caused by excessive welfare programs.
The remark came as the ruling and opposition parties have recklessly put forward a series of costly proposals in an apparent attempt to win the minds of voters ahead of next year's general elections.
Earlier this week, the ruling party's floor leader suggested the government provide free childcare for all children from right after birth. On Tuesday, the rival parties agreed to compensate victims of failed savings banks for their lost deposits beyond the legal limit.
"The government should make decisions with a sense of responsibility for what consequences today's policies will lead to," Lee said during a meeting with top finance and economy officials convened to discuss ways to cope with the recent global financial turmoil.
Lee said that it is understandable that politicians become desperate ahead of elections, but "what is more important is to make sure the Republic of Korea goes in the right direction." The Republic of Korea is South Korea's formal name.
"We have to do our job while keeping in mind what the Republic of Korea will look like 10 years from now," he said, adding that Greece is "suffering now from what it did 10 years ago."
On the financial turmoil, Lee said that all government ministries and agencies should cooperate and monitor the situation closely to overcome the crisis.
During the meeting, Lee also instructed the finance minister to take the financial turmoil into consideration when drafting next year's national budget, presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said.
The instructions suggest there could be changes in spending priorities in next year's budget.