Gender Ministry isn't being abolished yet, says Ahn
That includes keeping the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which Yoon vowed to abolish on the campaign trail.
In a press briefing at his office in Tongui-dong, central Seoul, Ahn said that after an in-depth review of reorganizing the government, “We concluded that it would be better to focus on current state affairs such as stability in people’s livelihoods and foreign affairs, rather than making hasty decisions and pursuing them during the transition period.”
He added that “taking into consideration economic issues domestically and abroad and the gravity of the foreign affairs and security situation,” the transition team has “decided to proceed based on the current government organizational structure.”
Thus, a gender equality minister nominee will be announced when Cabinet positions are filled by Yoon.
Ahn said, “The nominated gender equality minister will be tasked with finding problems and reform plans, and coming up with ways to carry out them out.”
The new administration will prioritize public livelihood issues and collect various opinions including from rival parties to “establish and implement in a calm and in-depth manner a government restructuring plan that is in line with the current times,” according to Ahn.
Government restructuring plans require parliamentary approval, and the Democratic Party (DP) currently holds a majority of 172 seats in the National Assembly. This could make amending the Government Organization Act difficult, and trying to force structural reforms during the transition could get the new administration off to a sluggish start.
Chang Je-won, Yoon’s chief of staff, told reporters later Thursday, “It is up to the National Assembly to pass the Government Organization Act. If we wait for parliamentary approval to make appointments, there will be a huge vacuum in state affairs.”
Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP) pledged to scrap the Gender Ministry in an apparent appeal to male voters in their 20s and 30s who are a part of the growing anti-feminist movement. After Yoon’s election victory, the transition team reaffirmed that the president-elect intended to keep his campaign pledge.
Thus, even if a gender minister is appointed, it could ultimately be a short-lived position.
Last week, Ahn met with women’s rights organizations that protested Yoon’s campaign pledge to scrap the Gender Equality Ministry.
The Gender Equality and Family Ministry was begun during the Kim Dae-jung administration in January 2001, taking from the Ministry of Health and Welfare tasks aimed at advancing women's rights and fighting gender discrimination.
Putting off the Gender Equality Ministry abolishment could also be in consideration of June 1 local elections. Polling experts have pointed out that gender issues may have encouraged more young female voters to vote for the DP’s presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung in the March 9 presidential election.
A transition team official said, "It is highly likely that the government reorganization will take place after the local elections."
Yoon has called for a slimmed down government and promised to delegate more responsibilities to the prime minister.
In keeping with another campaign pledge, Yoon is expected to start working from his new office in the Defense Ministry in Yongsan District, central Seoul, starting from the first day of his inauguration on May 10, according to his transition team.
Won Il-hee, a senior deputy spokesperson for the team, told reporters Thursday, “President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol will begin performing his presidential duties without leaving a security vacuum on May 10” in the Yongsan office.
The Moon Jae-in Cabinet approved 36 billion won ($29.5 million) in reserve funds Wednesday, putting into motion Yoon’s relocation plan. This left questions as to whether the relocation would be able to take place in time for Yoon’s inauguration.
Won said the two main factors in the relocation plan are the completion of a crisis management center to ensure there is no gap in security, and whether the new president will start his duties at his new office in the Defense Ministry building.
The transition team believes both conditions will be met before May 10, he said.
It is unclear which floor Yoon will be working from at the start. The lower four floors where the presidential office will eventually be established will only be vacated after the end of a Seoul-Washington joint exercise at the end of this month. Thus, the relocation is expected to occur in stages, and Yoon may have to work out of a temporary office in the Defense Ministry building until remodeling is completed.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]