SEOUL, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon urged the National Assembly on Tuesday to approve a supplementary budget, calling it an "emergency budget" aimed at addressing the worsening problem of unemployment among young people.

Lee made the appeal in a budget speech to the National Assembly, saying the number of unemployed people rose to about 1.27 million in March, the highest level since 2000. In particular, the unemployment rate for young adults -- those aged between 15 and 29 -- was 11.6 percent, Lee said, much worse than the total unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.

"If nothing is done about the current situation, the number of young adults unable to find jobs will sharply rise, making youth unemployment much worse," Lee said. "The following three to four years, when the retirement of baby-boom generations is expected to be completed, will be critical in youth unemployment."

Lee is South Korea's first prime minister to deliver a budget speech of his own. In the past, budget speeches were either delivered by the president in person or read on behalf of the president by the prime minister.

Last month, the government submitted a 3.9 trillion won (US$3.69 billion) extra budget.

Of the budget, 2.9 trillion won will be put into efforts to create jobs for young people while the rest will be spent on boosting regional economies suffering from restructuring in the shipbuilding and the automaking sectors, Lee said.

"The supplementary budget should be passed at an early date if the measures to address youth unemployment and support regional economies suffering from restructuring are going to have their intended effects," Lee said. "I ask for help in passing the proposed supplementary budget in May's extraordinary session."

Source: Yonhap News Agency