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[Editorial] Bipartisan Politics Water Down Gov’t Reshuffle Plan

[Editorial] Bipartisan Politics Water Down Gov’t Reshuffle Plan

Posted February. 21, 2008 03:02,   


United New Democratic Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu yesterday made a significant concession in agreeing to the closure of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, ending a month-long political deadlock and public worry over the government restructuring plan. The launch of the new government is a bit delayed but there will be no serious vacancies in ministerial posts. This means, however, that government organization, the basic framework for state affairs, has been decided by a political deal having nothing to do with the people’s welfare or national competitiveness. This is yet another bad precedent in Korean history.

With the Unification Ministry and the Gender Equality and Family Ministry saved from closure and consolidation, the number of ministries to be retained has grown from 13 to 15. Big government size aside, what is coming flies in the face of the intent of the original plan proposed by the presidential transition committee. So the compromised plan is like a flat-tasting beer.

A good example is the Unification Ministry. Originally the transition committee said that if the National Intelligence Service handles collection and analysis of information on North Korea and an economy-related ministry supervises inter-Korean economic exchanges, the Unification Ministry will have just 27 people left. So should the Unification Ministry exist just for those 27 people?

The committee also said that for women’s policies to go beyond protecting domestic and sexual violence victims and resolution of sexual discrimination, the General Equality and Family Ministry needs to merge with the Health and Welfare Ministry for more policy measures. So the existence of the Gender Equality and Family Ministry runs counter to that intent.

The minor United New Democratic Party has urged retention of the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, saying the organization supports the intent of the Kim Dae-jung administration to promote sexual equality. This stance obviously has an ulterior motive. If the conservative Grand National Party wins in the April general elections, it will urge a smaller government, and if the UNDP wins, it will want a bigger government. It will be interesting how the people judge this case.

President-elect Lee Myung-bak should not stop here and do more to form a smaller and efficient government. The reform plan gives off the impression of being incomplete. By law, a special affairs minister can be appointed, but it is confusing to see the transition committee saying the president might or might not name one. Also questionable if the new Knowledge-based Economy Ministry and the merged Education, Science and Technology Ministry can efficiently work together. Both the president-elect and the Grand National Party should be held responsible for this watered-down reform plan.