SEOUL, South Korea: South Korean officials have said that the government will double energy vouchers and provide discounts on gas prices for underprivileged families, amidst surging heating bills and an ongoing cold wave.
Due to a global rise in natural gas and heating fuel prices caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many countries have faced surging energy costs.
According to Statistics Korea, many households began to suffer in recent weeks, after turning up the heat during the current cold spell, with monthly gas bills rising 34 percent last month, compared to last year.
Choi Sang-mok, South Korea's top presidential economic secretary, said rising bills were inevitable due to a near tenfold growth in global natural gas prices since 2021, but South Korean rates were still far lower than in other developed countries.
In a country of 21.6 million households, the new measures would benefit some 1.2 million families who receive energy vouchers, as well as 1.6 million homes eligible for the gas discount this winter, he added.
As freezing winter weather continues, many South Koreans expressed concerns over additional hikes in energy bills.
"Our heating bills have gone up about 50 percent from previous years," adding that he and his wife are trying to cut back on non-essential expenses, such as eating out, said Seoul resident Lim Jong-cheol, as quoted by Reuters.
Also from Seoul, independent hardware store owner Bang Myung-soon, 76, told Reuters she was "shocked" by the hike in heating bills and government subsidies would not be enough.
"At home, I wear many clothes, a hat, gloves and anything that can keep me warm, but I cannot turn down the heat here because of customers. The government might have some policy to help people like us, but I have no hope," she said, as reported by Reuters.