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Compromise on Gov’t Restructuring Plan Unveiled

Posted December. 20, 2008 01:54,   


The conservative Grand National Party yesterday accepted a compromise on the government-downsizing plan after long negotiations with the liberal United New Democratic Party.

The number of ministries will fall from 18 to 15 and that of agencies from four to two. The presidential transitional committee had proposed 13 ministries.

GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo said the compromise is in line with President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s pledge for a small and efficient government. Critics, however, say this shows the incoming administration’s lack of willingness to keep its pledge of a small government. They say a considerable number of state organizations that had been subject to closure or restructuring will be retained.

○ Maritime ministry gone; unification, gender equality ministries retained

With the agreement to close the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will handle fish and marine product policies, and the Homeland and Maritime Affairs Ministry will take over port logistics and marine environment polices and the Korea Coast Guard.

The Gender Equality and Family Ministry will be retained, albeit with fewer functions, instead of merging with the Health and Welfare Ministry following the UNDP’s demand. Family policies, however, will be the domain of the new Health, Welfare and Family Ministry.

The Education and Science Ministry will be renamed the Education, Science and Technology Ministry. The Culture and Tourism Ministry will be reborn as the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry.

The UNDP also won a concession in retaining the Unification Ministry, which had been slated for absorption by the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry. But the size of the Unification Ministry will be reduced.

The transition committee had planned to put the Korea Forest Service under the Homeland and Maritime Affairs Ministry, but agreed to let the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry take over it. The UNDP said farmers’ views should be reflected in the change.

○ Stronger checks on abuse of power

The transition committee’s plan to let the Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission and the National Human Rights Commission operate under the president’s control was also altered due to the UNDP. The party said presidential control of the two bodies is unconstitutional and could lead to abuse of power.

The human rights commission will remain an independent organization. The president will directly supervise the broadcast commission, but he can appoint only two out of the five board members. The National Assembly will name the remaining three members, with two of them to be recommended by negotiating bodies excluding the GNP.

The Financial Commission will handle both monetary policy and fiscal supervision. The floor leaders of the two major parties also canceled a plan to allow the commission to control the Financial Supervisory Service to strengthen the latter’s independence.

The transition committee had proposed that supervision of national museums go to the Cultural Heritage Administration, but the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry will assume this role.

○ Restructuring of affiliates to be discussed later

Both parties also agreed not to deliberate on the restructuring of truth committees, the Rural Development Administration, the National Fisheries Institute and Development Institute and the National Forest Research Institute during the extraordinary parliamentary session this month. Thus, the 18th National Assembly will probably handle these topics.

The UNDP strongly objected to the closure of one truth committee on past crimes. The GNP was also uncomfortable with the plan to change the Rural Development Administration into a state-funded think tank since farmers could turn on the conservative party in the April general elections.

The transition committee had intended to close five of the 14 truth committees and merge the remaining nine, but all 14 will be retained for now.

The functions of the Rural Development Administration, the National Fisheries Institute and Development Institute and the National Forest Research Institute will also be retained. This will likely strike a blow to the transition committee’s plan to cut 3,086 public servants from the three agencies.

The GNP also tentatively agreed to close eight of 19 presidential advisory councils, restructure seven and maintain four after consultation with the UNDP. The transition committee had sought to scrap 15 of the councils, restructure three and retain one.