By Hsu Li-chuan, Su Chin-feng and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Apparently backtracking on a campaign pledge made by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) a day earlier, Han’s presidential campaign office yesterday clarified where he would source funding to support students studying abroad.

While presiding over the inauguration of the Youth Support Association in Yunlin County’s Huwei Township (虎尾) on Friday, Han, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, said he pays great attention to policies for young people and that he would like to encourage students to pursue at least one year of study abroad.

Efforts to foster young people must improve, as Taiwan is looking at a dark future, Han said.

“We are no worse than any other Asian nation and the government should devote more funding to the education system,” he said. “If I am elected president, I will find a way to provide all the funding for such endeavors.”

A calculation shared on Professional Technology Temple — the nation’s biggest online bulletin board system — suggested that Han’s proposal would require the state to spend NT$136 billion (US$4.4 billion) a year and NT$540 billion over four years.

The calculation averaged tuition fees from the US, the UK and Australia, while slashing the cost of living and airfare.

Han’s campaign office yesterday said that if Han is elected, his administration would help cover a half or one-third of student’s overseas studies.

Collaborating with banks for discounted loans would be possible, the office said.

Clauses to prevent people in the NT$1.4 million annual income bracket from taking advantage of the policy would be considered, it added.

The funds could be covered by moving NT$50 billion from the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, the campaign office said, adding that the government would shoulder any additional costs and that its burden would only grow lighter due to declining birth rates.

Separately yesterday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is seeking re-election as the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, said that Han should have more comprehensive policy platforms or he would risk not being able to realize his promises.

Tsai made the remarks on the sidelines of a campaign event in Taichung, where Chinese herbal medicine dealers had founded a group to support her re-election bid.

At the event, she said that if re-elected, she would push for traditional Chinese medicine to be included in the long-term health care program, to foster the growth of affiliated industries and to draft legislation for the development of traditional medicine.

At another campaign event where she presided over the founding of a support group for dealers from the agricultural sector, Tsai promised that if she was re-elected, her administration would focus on improving the export of agricultural products.

Next year’s presidential election is very important, as it will tell the whole world that Taiwan is a democratic country, Tsai said, adding that Taiwanese should tell the world that they choose democracy, freedom and autonomy.