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Park envisions small Blue House

Democratic United Party emergency committee chief Moon Hee-sang (center) meets with deputy head of the presidential transition committee Chin Young (left) and Park Geun-hye’s chief secretary Yoo Il-ho in Seoul on Thursday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Democratic United Party emergency committee chief Moon Hee-sang (center) meets with deputy head of the presidential transition committee Chin Young (left) and Park Geun-hye’s chief secretary Yoo Il-ho in Seoul on Thursday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
President-elect Park Geun-hye is expected to carve out a smaller Cheong Wa Dae with some powers delegated to newly-formed control centers to oversee the economy, security, science and welfare, sources said Thursday.

While her government will be bigger with more ministries, heightened statuses and expanded roles, the presidential office is likely to be compact in line with her pledge to balance power with the prime minister.

Park’s presidential office’s restructuring outline is expected to be released within this week in a follow up to her government overhaul plan announced on Tuesday.

“The reorganization plan for Cheong Wa Dae is in its last stage,” a transition committee official said. Cheong Wa Dae is often called Blue House in English for the blue roofs on its buildings.

While the government reorganization requires parliamentary approval, the presidential office formulation is solely up to her.

The most notable change will be the establishment of a new national security office within Cheong Wa Dae, which will oversee the country’s foreign affairs, defense, inter-Korean issues and crisis management.

A new social security commission to be established directly under the president is expected to be in charge of welfare. The commission could be placed under the prime minister, according to the sources.

With the economy overseen by a deputy prime minister, the new presidential bodies are to act as the control towers in Park’s administration.

Namely, the prime minister will oversee the overall state administration, while the deputy prime minister will deal with the economy, as the national security office chief takes charge of national security and the social security commissioner for welfare.

The minister for future, creation and science, meanwhile, will also be a crucial member of the new powerhouse by spearheading the nation’s future planning.

Currently, there are two minister-level officials in Cheong Wa Dae overseeing the nation’s policymaking functions, including the presidential chief of staff and the chief of policy staff.

Sources said that following the new lineup, the post of chief of policy staff may be removed.

Following such changes, the structure of senior secretaries at vice-ministerial level is also likely to undergo a reshuffle. The senior secretaries for foreign affairs and national security and national crisis management, for instance, will most likely have their roles integrated under the national security office.

Posts that could potentially disappear include the senior secretary for national future, who acted as President Lee Myung-bak’s chief policy engineer.

The position of senior secretary for civil affairs is also expected to be downsized as its role of monitoring and inspecting irregularities of the president’s families and associates will be taken over by the special auditor pledged by Park.

Senior secretaries that are likely to remain intact include those on political affairs and public relations.

The transition team, meanwhile, is reportedly reviewing cutting around 83 committees belonging to the president and the prime minister.

Taking their place are likely to be new committees on social security, grand unity, equal opportunity and youth.

The number of public servants, on the other hand, is likely to surge to over 1 million to fill up the bigger overall government. Park has pledged to increase the police force by 20,000, reinforce fire-fighting personnel and raise the number of teachers per student to the upper ranks among the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. There are currently around 990,000 public servants.

Park’s transition committee wrapped up its weeklong sessions dedicated to hearing from each government organization for the handover. The presidential office was among the last to make its report on Thursday afternoon.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)
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