President-elect Park Geun-hye envisions a larger government role in fostering growth and enhancing public safety.
In her government restructuring announcement Tuesday, it was revealed that a Future Creation and Science Ministry (tentatively named), deputy prime minister on economy and Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries would be newly established. The Knowledge Economy Ministry will be expanded and renamed the Industry, Commerce and Resources Ministry (tentative name), while the special ministerial system will be scrapped. This leaves the government enlarged to 17 ministries, 3 lower ministries and 17 agencies. While it is a relatively minimal reorganization, it creates a larger government with broader roles to execute Park’s pledges centered on welfare and mutual growth.
By adopting a structure more reminiscent of a progressive, Park is showing her determination to invest more government power to fulfill her “era of people’s happiness” vision, pundits said.
Observers also cautioned that Park’s idea for a greater government role should be carefully carried out so as not to hurt the autonomous potential of the civil sector and to maintain a format fit for today’s national dynamic.
“While the civil sector had little capacity in the past and needed extensive government support to grow, it is the opposite today. It must be carefully coordinated so that the civil part does not become excessively reliant on the government,” said public administration professor Lee Jong-youl of the University of Incheon.
This leads to an extensive list of tasks that await the transition team and the incoming government, as they must clarify the exact roles of each organization and adjust the personnel makeup.
“What is important is for each ministry to step beyond focusing on what their exclusive roles are but rather concentrate on creating an organic network amongst each other,” Lee said.
Professor Yoo Hong-lim of Dankook University explained why.
“We tend to believe that becoming an independent organization will lead to more active operation, sort of like teaming up against each other. We tend to perceive that a merger (among the organizations) is a defeat.”
He referred to the designation of a deputy prime ministerial post as representing the negative aspects of Korea’s administrative culture.
“While it is appropriate to create control towers, the ideal method would have been to make adjustments to the functions. (We shouldn’t need to) create a higher rank to get the job done.” He explained that it may have been an inevitable choice for the sake of getting rid of egoism among the ministries due to a culture that responds better to “rank-pulling.”
Observers also expressed caution over the ministry on future creation and science becoming a barren organization with an excessive say in the decisions of others.
“For instance, for the Future Creation and Science Ministry, it would be unreasonable for the body to attempt to control all IT-related sectors in an era where even the simple task of driving involves IT,” Lee said.
“It would be appropriate for the ministry to focus its role on setting the future vision and showing the direction encompassing such diverse sectors,” he suggested.
Park’s government reorganization was prepared under the theme of “people’s happiness” based on economic revival and public safety, the mantra of the Park government since the election.
In order to realize public safety by fighting the four social ills of sex crime, domestic violence, school violence and unsafe food, Park changed the name of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security to the Ministry of Public Safety and Administration. For better management of the food chain, Park also elevated the status of the Korea Food and Drug Administration.
For economic revival, she has resurrected the deputy prime ministerial position and created the Future Creation and Science Ministry.
Park must now tackle the crucial job of setting the boundaries of each ministry. Park is expected to maintain her emphasis on removing any overlapping functions and encouraging integration among the bodies for “professionalism and efficiency” as her key principle.
Such ministries as the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry must also undergo immense changes to its structure with the trade section being merged with the newly opening Industry, Commerce and Resources Ministry.
Park’s transition team is also working on additional restructuring for Cheong Wa Dae, the Prime Minister’s Office and other government bodies. The focus will be on reducing the authority of the presidential office by enhancing the roles of the prime minister and the control towers for economy, welfare and security.
The deputy prime minister on economy is likely to be joined by the heads of a national security office and social security commission that are expected to be announced later.
Park’s bigger government plan is also likely to be matched by greater financing, much of which will be channeled into implementing universal welfare projects such as free childcare services and college tuition cuts.
Other organizations that need further tweaking include the financial bodies in their policymaking and regulation roles.
The government reshuffle plan needs parliamentary approval.
To the main opposition Democratic United Party’s criticism that the restructuring plan was never discussed with them, the transition committee said there would be ample time to discuss the measures with the political parties.
“Once the last-remaining factors are confirmed, we will be explaining (the plan) to the Saenuri Party and the opposition party, and also to the public,” the committee’s vice chairman Rep. Chin Young said Wednesday.
Chin and Yoo Il-ho, Park’s chief secretary, will visit DUP leader Moon Hee-sang on Thursday and explain the president-elect’s new government plan and seek the party’s cooperation, the transition team said.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org