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Unification Ministry to be drastically reduced and reorganized

Unification Ministry to be drastically reduced and reorganized

Posted July. 29, 2023 08:11,   

Updated July. 29, 2023 08:11


President Yoon Suk Yeol appointed Kim Young-ho as the new unification minister on Friday. This is the 15th ministerial-level appointment made without adopting the National Assembly personnel hearing report since the inauguration of the current administration. The opposition party refused to adopt the hearing report, citing Minister Kim's hostile view of North Korea and insincere submission of materials. On the same day, the Ministry of Unification announced the direction of the reorganization by merging the four organizations in charge of inter-Korean dialogue, exchanges, and cooperation and establishing a new organization dedicated to abductees, detainees, and prisoners of war. In line with This reorganization, the Ministry of Unification will reduce about 80 people, or 15% of its quota.

The reorganization plan of the Ministry of Unification, which coincided with the inauguration of Minister Kim, who is a hardliner on North Korea, is a measure that follows the request for extensive change by President Yoon, who said, “It cannot play the role as the North Korea Support Department.” Earlier this month, President Yoon replaced all of the Unification Ministers, Vice Ministers, and the Presidential Unification Secretary with outside personnel. The Ministry of Unification accepted the resignation of six high-ranking officials equivalent to GR1 and announced large-scale restructuring. In particular, the four dialogue and cooperation organizations, namely the Exchange and Cooperation Bureau, the Inter-Korean Talks Headquarters, the Inter-Korean Cooperation District Development Planning Group, and the Inter-Korean Transit Office, will be reduced as if they were virtually dismantled. Instead, with the establishment of an organization dedicated to abductees directly under the minister, the role of the Ministry of Unification, which is in charge of putting pressure on North Korea with human rights as a link, is expected to grow.

A reduction and reorganization of the Ministry of Unification may be inevitable in a situation where North Korea refuses to engage in dialogue and continues to provocate and threaten. The Ministry of Unification also asks the public to consider themselves as a flexible organization operating contingent upon the situation of the South and the North. However, it may have been a long overdue fate in light of the footprints of the Ministry of Unification, which has been through extreme variations following the change of administration and the ups and downs of inter-Korean relations. This reorganization brings to mind the hardships of the Ministry of Unification, which almost went through a permanent shutdown during the Lee Myung-bak administration, but ended up with a large-scale reduction in quotas, and the massive personnel changes of the National Intelligence Service, which are carried out whenever the administration changes.

Depending on changes in the times and environment, the composition, function, and weight of the Ministry of Unification's internal organization may change. However, the original mission of preparing for the future of unification and stable management of inter-Korean relations by closely observing North Korea's inner workings should not change. The Government Organization Act also stipulates the work of the Ministry of Unification as “policy establishment, unification education, and other unification-related affairs related to unification and inter-Korean dialogue, exchange, and cooperation.” The Ministry of Unification's core responsibility of constantly seeking dialogue and exchange and pushing for "change through engagement" should not be neglected, even amid unequivocal condemnation by the government in response to North Korea's reckless provocations.