‘Future Ministry’ is stuck in a rut

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‘Future Ministry’ is stuck in a rut

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning opened a so-called creative-economy cyber exhibition Web site on July 8.

At the time, the ministry said that anyone who accessed the Web site could learn about startup companies that succeeded in their respective field through innovative and creative ideas. The virtual exhibition featured 42 products and services created not only by small startups and individuals but also by conglomerates as well.

The Web site lasted a single day. On July 9, it went blank with a notification that a better service would be offered in the future. The ministry said that problems were discovered with the site. In fact, its initial idea was to hold a real exhibition with bricks, mortar and actual products and services. But they settled for an exhibit in cyberspace. The botched exhibit prompted so much criticism that the ministry apologized in a press release on July 11.

The Future Ministry, as it is dubbed, was created by the Park Geun-hye administration in late February with enormous hype and grand ambitions. It was supposed to lead the government’s drive to make Korea’s hardware and export-reliant economy more creative and come up with new growth engines suitable for the 21st century.

But five months later, people are questioning whether there’s any point to the ministry at all. The creative economy master plan that the Future Ministry announced early last month was a rehash of policies from past administrations.

Even the Blue House isn’t very happy with its performance. Park’s senior secretary for Future Strategy is closely monitoring the ministry, as is her senior secretary for political affairs.

“If the ministry was created with so much hoopla, shouldn’t they be making news, whether bad or good?” a high-ranking Blue House official said. “It feels like they’re doing nothing.”

The official said that considering the basic idea of making the economy more creative, the seeds - or policies - need to be planted at the start of the term to see any results after five years.

The Future Ministry isn’t the only government department whose performance is barely registering on the radar screen.

The office of the Senior Secretary for Future Strategy hasn’t shown much vigor. Some insiders say that the power within the Blue House is tilting from Choi Soon-hong, who holds the position, to Senior Secretary for Economic Affairs Cho Won-dong.

A scholar who has been a close advisor to President Park told the JoongAng Ilbo that Cho’s department is actually leading the creative economy drive.

“Choi, who spent 30 years in the U.S., seems to be unskilled in the political culture of Korea and it seems the power is titling towards Cho,” said the scholar, who asked not to be named.

Choi was a chief information and technology officer at the United Nations between 2007 and 2012 before joining Park’s presidential campaign.

He was initially appointed so he could work closely with IT industry expert Kim Jeong-hun, former head of Bell Labs in the U.S., who was nominated to head the Future Ministry at its inception.

However, Kim resigned before National Assembly confirmation hearings saying he was sick of the political tug-of-war over his appointment.

Citing a baseball analogy, a government official said Choi and Kim were positioned like a pitcher and a catcher.

“As the Choi-Kim lineup was changed, the synergy that the government hoped for didn’t happen,” the official said.

BY HUH JIN, SOHN HYE-YONG [ojlee82@jooongang.co.kr]

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