SEJONG-- Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said Monday he will strengthen the country's social safety net and establish a foothold for a welfare state for the next five decades.

During his inauguration ceremony held at the government complex in Sejong, south of Seoul, Park said the country should be able to embrace the vulnerable people and become an inclusive society that can bring about growth from all walks of life.

"To make an inclusive welfare state, there should be harmony between a sound market economy and a strong social safety net," he said, vowing to come up with detailed plans for such a society.

The new minister addressed the country's low birthrate and the weak medical and other services for people in the low-income brackets as some of the key issues to be tackled first.

During a meeting with reporters after the ceremony, Park acknowledged the necessity of tax hikes in order to expand welfare benefits, but said public consent should be made first.

Source: Yonhap News Agency