Gov’t restructure criticized

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Gov’t restructure criticized

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A security guard answers a phone call at the Central Government Complex in Gwanghwamun yesterday. The incoming Park Geun-hye administration announced reorganization of the ministries on Tuesday that will affect many public servants. [YONHAP]

Following a massive administrative restructuring by President-elect Park Geun-hye, both ruling and opposition parties lashed out at her opaque transition team for not conducting prior consultation with politicians.

The restructuring plan requires the National Assembly’s approval. The ruling Saenuri Party, to which the incoming president belongs, complained that the president-elect didn’t have any discussions with them before the announcement.

“There was no consultation with the party,” a ruling party official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. “We just got it when the announcement came out.”

A couple of Saenuri officials told the JoongAng Ilbo that they were unaware of what was going on in the reshaping process.

Saenuri members lashed out at Chin Young, a senior member who is the deputy head of the team, because he rarely divulges details on the restructuring work.

As a result, members say the ruling party has been totally left out of the decision-making group of the president-elect.

In fact, the Saenuri Party was planning to launch a special communication committee between the transition team and the ruling party, with the aim to closely cooperate with the incoming president in designing the next administration’s policy goals, a precedent that former President-elect Lee Myung-bak followed.

Although a meeting between the transition team and the party is arranged for tomorrow, it is expected to discuss a few issues that legally require the consensus of the legislature.

The largest opposition Democratic United Party, which was not tipped off about the restructuring, also complained.

It initially reacted positively to the announcement on Tuesday and promised to consult with the ruling party to approve the changes either on Jan. 30 or Feb. 4.

The mood, however, changed yesterday.

“Without any single prior explanation to the main opposition party, which plays a key role in national affairs, announcing the restructuring plan unilaterally means ignoring the entire legislature,” Woo Won-shik, the deputy floor leader of the DUP, said during a meeting with members yesterday.

“The Park administration will face a rough road ahead in the process of the legislature’s review on the plan.”

Byun Jae-ill, the chief policy maker of the DUP, said yesterday that the transition committee’s announcement lacked specifics.

Particularly, he pointed out that there are no remarks about how to divide power between the Blue House and the Prime Minister’s Office, which is a core pledge from Park as an effort to scale down the powerful, but corruption-ridden, presidential office.

The opposition party also demanded the Small and Medium Business Administration to be expanded to a cabinet-level office, not an outside committee.

Park’s spokeswoman said yesterday that the committee’s deputy chairman Chin Young and Park’s chief of staff Yoo Il-ho will visit the DUP’s leadership today and explain about the government restructuring to seek the DUP’s support.

The reorganization also threw officials of some ministries into a panic. One of the hard-hit ministries was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which will move trade affairs to the newly created Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources.

Currently, about 100 of the entire 900 officials at the Foreign Ministry are working on trade affairs, including those sent abroad.

Under the new adjustment, the trade officials will first have to relocate their office to the Sejong Government Complex, a southern suburb notorious for inconvenient public transport and poor infrastructure. Their official status will be also changed, from “diplomat” to “general public administration official.”

“It has been really tough to adjust myself to the Foreign Ministry for the past 15 years, since it started to cover trade affairs [from the Kim Dae-jung administration],” a managerial-level official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Now I have to accustom myself to a new organization once again. I don’t know what to do.”

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which will be shrunken to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Livestock, also expressed dismay.

“We didn’t expect this change at all,” a senior official at the ministry said. “We have lost fisheries and foods. Now all we have is just raising cows and plowing fields.”

Although changing ministries is a tradition in Korean administrations for the past two decades, accordingly, it has required a massive cost.

The newly launched Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries Affairs, which stems from the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, will have to pay a massive cost to move their office to Busan, on the southeastern coast, although it has been only three months since they settled down in Sejong City.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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