SEOUL-- Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo is forecast to aggressively push forward welfare expansion that could entail tax hikes, local observers said Friday.

During a confirmation hearing held at the National Assembly earlier, Park vowed to pay keen attention to building an effective social security net, addressing the country's low birthrate, and enhancing medical and other services for people in the low-income brackets.

He further acknowledged the need for more robust investment and possible tax hikes in order to expand welfare benefits for more people.

The move comes amid growing calls for welfare at a time when the country's population is fast aging and birth rates remain chronically low, which would result in a shrinking workforce and more burdens on the workforce to support senior citizens and the underprivileged.

Welfare, however, has become a politically sensitive issue during the presidential election campaign during which President Moon Jae-in vowed to expand related services.

Park acknowledged the need to expand public interest in welfare policies, vowing to reduce so-called blind spots to ensure no needy people go without help.

The policymaker has opposed expanding telemedicine, saying that connecting doctors and patients through the use of information and telecommunications technology should be adopted only in a restrictive way.

During the previous administration, the ministry announced that it will expand telemedicine pilot programs as part of an effort to support moves by local hospitals to provide remote medical services in overseas markets.

Source: Yonhap News Agency