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A half-baked revamp

June 07,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s administration unveiled an outline to realign itself to ensure “stability” in public policy and management for the next five years. The changes were kept to a minimum so as not to cause any disruption in the administration that skipped a transition period after this spring’s snap election.

Under the outline, the fire service and coast guard operations would become independent and the Ministry of Public Safety and Security will be disbanded. The vice-ministerial level Small and Medium Business Administration would be upgraded to the ministerial-level office. The trade function of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy will be kept instead of moving to the foreign ministry, and at the same time a vice ministerial-level trade representative will be established.

After the shift, the government would be enlarged to 18 ministries and 22 vice-ministerial-level agencies from 17 ministries and 21 vice-ministerial-level organizations.

The adjustments were made for greater efficiency without shaking the framework of the public establishment. The Ministry of Public and Security, which was created and enlarged by the former administration following the sinking of Sewol in 2014, should be dismantled. The ministry has 13,000 staff and an annual budget of 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion) but failed to properly respond to natural disasters and large accidents.

The revived the National Coast Guard and Central Fire Service must draw lessons from the ministry’s past failures. The Ministry of Small and Medium Business must prove it deserved to be enlarged through the productive promotion of small and mid-sized and venture enterprises.

Yet the reorganization falls short of expectations as it fails to reflect the urgent national challenges. The low fertility rate, tourism and trade issues require immediate and long-term action. Fighting thinning population is not an issue to be delayed.

The new administration’s organization also does not seem to consider tourism as a future growth engine for the country.
It is also uncertain whether a trade representative under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy can act sufficiently against challenging trade environment including the pending revisit to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The government should make more amendments to the outline proposal before it submits to the National Assembly for approval.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 6, Page 26