Published : 2013-02-06 20:08
Updated : 2013-02-06 20:08
The National Assembly has started deliberation on President-elect Park Geun-hye’s proposal for a sweeping government overhaul. The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party have agreed to handle the government reorganization bill by Feb. 14.
The proposal is of vital importance for Park as it is much more than a simple plan for government rearrangement. It embodies her grand vision for reshaping the nation by reforming Korean society and restructuring the polarized economy.
As such, Park wants lawmakers to respect her intention and endorse her proposal without major modifications.
Yet the bill is expected to face a tough time in the Assembly. One reason is that Park created her blueprint without consulting the opposition party. Rep. Park Ki-choon, floor leader of the DUP, said his party would basically respect the president-elect’s ideas and try to be cooperative in handling the bill.
But he added the bill should not be passed without its ill-advised parts being modified. Specifically, Rep. Woo Won-sik, deputy floor leader of the DUP, said the bill had at least 15 parts that needed rewriting.
In deliberating the government reorganization bill, lawmakers from both parties should try to listen to the views of those affected who were not consulted by the president-elect or her transition team.
To keep her plan confidential, Park did not even consult the ministries to be directly affected by it. Lawmakers need to find out their views to be able to make a more balanced judgment on the changes proposed by Park.
While canvassing views from diverse sources is necessary, legislators need to be on guard against lobbying efforts by public and private agencies. In particular, they should take care not to be swayed by ministries that are keen to defend their vested interests.
Park’s plan proposes many important changes. Among them, the most controversial one may be her proposal to transfer the trade-related functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the envisioned Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The plan, understandably, has not gone down well with officials of the Foreign Ministry as their ministry will be deprived of a unit accounting for one-third of its workforce.
Their simmering discontent boiled over in the form of Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan publicly denouncing the reorganization plan during a parliamentary session Monday.
Kim noted that under the current legal arrangements, the president’s authority to represent the state and conclude treaties with foreign countries is delegated to the minister of foreign affairs and trade.
If trade functions are transferred to the MOTIE, its minister would represent the government in trade negotiations and conclude trade-related treaties with foreign countries.
Kim argued that this would go against the current framework and therefore “shake the Constitution to the core.”
The minister’s logic was not convincing, given that the president’s authority could be delegated to other ministers by revising the relevant laws. The Constitution does not specifically say the minister of foreign affairs and trade is the only legitimate delegate.
Kim’s case could be dismissed as an example of what the president-elect called “ministerial selfishness.” Yet his view was worth listening to. More importantly, the minister’s criticism led Park and her aides to offer more detailed explanations of the proposed change.
It would have been better had Park drafted the government reorganization blueprint based on in-depth consultations with ministries and other stakeholders. But since she did not, she should expect criticism during the legislative process. And she should be ready for modifications to it.