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Upcoming reshuffle of gov`t structure

Posted January. 16, 2013 15:03,   


The presidential transition committee on Tuesday announced a reshuffle in the government structure that includes the formation of a new ministry on the future, creativity and science, the revival of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, and the introduction of a deputy prime minister for economy. As a result, the new administration will change the existing structure of 15 full and two lower-level ministries and 18 agencies to one of 17 full and three lower-level ministries and 17 agencies. Central commands to supervise the economy, science and technology, welfare, foreign affairs and national security will also seek to overcome barriers between ministries.

In the past, a governmental structure implicitly illustrated the administrative philosophy and future vision of the administration in power. President-elect Park Geun-hye is pushing the theory of creative economy, which involves "the creation of new jobs and markets through aggressive investment in information and communication technology, culture, contents and service industries." She also emphasized social welfare to cope with widening disparity, which is growing serious due to unlimited competition at the global level. Her administrative philosophy has led to the creation of a future, creativity and science ministry and the reinforcement of a central command for welfare programs.

How regrettable, however, that a vice minister for the future, creativity and science ministry will take charge of ICT rather than a separate ministry to be established. ICT is a massive bombshell of future business that will transform the maps of all industries, including shopping, education, medicine and energy, by integrating with the smart revolution. Korea is believed to need a ministry exclusively in charge of ICT affairs that can predict changes, prepare the country for such changes and provide necessary support, and that can give opinions and suggestions based on professional insight and a sense of responsibility to the Cabinet and the National Assembly.

Basic science requires a long period before a return on investment is made, and thus the government should not pursue short-term achievements. This is different from ICT and other industries that should generate cash in the immediate future. Both areas are part of science and technology but the new ministry might cause an imbalance in policy and spawn unnecessary tension and conflict due to integration under one roof of the two fields, whose natures are starkly different.

The independence of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry could merely mean the same organization of the past that simply integrated the functions of maritime affairs and fisheries. The ministry will need integrative administrative capability to allow effective coping with maritime territorial disputes, protecting national interests in international issues, and pursue research and development centered on field sites. This would spearhead the nation’s capacity in marine science and technology and raise it to the global level. Efforts to attract the ministry`s headquarters made by certain municipalities will be a shortsighted bid that will only isolate the ministry from other government agencies and could make it a minor office. Only when the ministry is based in Sejong City together with other ministries will it achieve proactive cooperation with other ministries.

Generally, a conservative government seeks a “large market, small government,” but President-elect Park, who won the election with support from conservatives, is moving to expand the public sector. Of course, government organization should be determined and formulated by considering above all the changing trends of the era and administrative efficiency, but controversy will linger over whether a large government is suitable for the policy orientation of a conservative administration. Economic policies are so extensive that they are inevitably taken up by a number of ministries and agencies. But since such policies are closely interlinked, they should be comprehensively established and coordinated. As such, the introduction of deputy prime minister for the economy seems necessary.

A government structure should not be too rigid to reflect changing trends, but Korea should shed its habit of adding and removing government agencies or changing their names whenever a new administration is inaugurated. This practice is merely a way to show off, which is hardly effective, and just adds to public confusion. This might not be something Korea should necessarily copy, but the U.S. Treasury Department has kept the same name for 200 years. The reshuffle of the government structure by the incoming Park administration might be necessary, paradoxically because the one conducted by the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration might have been ill-advised.