The National Assembly convened a one-month extraordinary session on Monday to deal with President-elect Park Geun-hye’s government overhaul plan and key Cabinet appointments ahead of her swearing in on Feb. 25.
Park has called for the revival of two new central government ministries in charge of science and technology, and maritime affairs and fisheries.
Both ministries were split apart and their functions merged with other ministries in 2008 as part of government reorganization by incumbent President Lee Myung-bak.
Saenuri and DUP floor leaders have agreed to vote on the government restructuring plan by Feb. 14 and to confirm her nominee for prime minister by Feb. 26.
|Saenuri Party and Democratic United Party lawmakers, including Saenuri’s Chin Young (third from right) and DUP’s Byun Jae-ill (third from left), pose ahead of the meeting over the proposed Government Organization Act revision Monday. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald0|
While the main opposition Democratic United Party has pledged cooperation, its lawmakers have raised concerns regarding the mammoth scale of the proposed science ministry.
It is set to take on additional roles in information technology, academic research, nuclear energy, broadcasting policy, and other functions previously relegated to other ministries.
“Adding the tasks of creative economy, job creation, and supporting medium-sized companies (to the proposed ministry on science and technology) comes with the risks that the science and technology sectors will significantly backtrack and be misled,” said DUP Rep. Lee Sang-min, who is a member of the parliament’s committee on science and technology, in a radio interview.
Another area of contention is Park’s proposal to transfer the trade division within the Ministry on Foreign Affairs to a newly reorganized ministry on commerce and industry. The foreign ministry and opposition lawmakers have criticized the plan, stating that diplomacy must work in tandem with powers over the nation’s trading capabilities.
Park has defended the transfer of roles, stating that negotiating trade on the international stage should be linked to domestic industries and the guidance of industry experts.
“Our counterparts (in trade negotiations) are industry experts, so we should also have industry experts handling trade,” Park told the governing Saenuri Party’s lawmakers during a luncheon, according to participants. “Also, once a trade treaty is signed, we must promote our own industries in line with (the treaties).”
Three representatives from each party also held their first meeting on Monday as part of the agreed bipartisan negotiation framework. Besides Rep. Kim Ki-hyun, the deputy floor leader, the rest of the Saenuri Party’s negotiating team was composed of members of the presidential transition committee, including Chin Young, the transition team’s vice chairman.
DUP representatives criticized the member selection as threatening the independence of the National Assembly apart from the executive office.
“Considering how members from the transition team, which was the very actor that proposed the set of bills, we cannot know if we are talking to governing party or the transition committee,” said Woo Won-shik, who was part of the DUP’s negotiating team. “(If members of the transition team participate), the National Assembly loses its independent powers to judge the government overhaul plan.”
But Rep. Kim of the Saenuri Party defended the selection, saying that all were members of the Saenuri Party as elected officials or appointed heads.
By Samuel Songhoon Lee