The Fate of the Ministry of Unification
The battle over the Ministry of Unification has begun. Chosun Ilbo quotes Choi Jae Sung, spokesman of the UNDP, saying:
“It’s a plan that carries the possibility of the Lee Myung-bak administration favoring a Cold-War style policy,”
Former presidential candidate and former Minister of Unification, Chung Dong Young, weighed in as well:
[The decision to close the ministry]… shows the committee’s lack of understanding of the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and a proper vision for national unification. The Unification Ministry should be expanded and strengthened.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Labor Party, the Democratic Party, and the Creative Korea Party had their own choice epithets for Lee Myung Bak’s plan.
The Korea Times, in an editorial, called on Lee to be more cautious about abolishing the ministry. While they fault the ministry for being overly amiable to the North, not demanding enough concessions, failing to forge a public consensus, failing to call attention to human rights violations, etc, they lambaste Lee’s plan as “hasty and improper” and even go so far as to classify the plan as being “politically motivated for the next government to use as a bargaining tool to haggle with the opposing UNDP.”
The Korea Herald (Unification Ministry’s Fate Sparks Debate, 1/18/08) also noted such a possibility:
Some say the decision is politically motivated, as part of punitive measures against the preceding governments and their “Sunshine Policy.”
The Herald quotes several GNP officials fighting back against such allegations, attempting to allay fears by saying that the ministry won’t be abolished; it will just be merged with MOFAT. GNP officials also fought back against allegations of politicization:
“The integration of the Unification Ministry is not a bargaining chip and we hold on to the original plan and will put utmost efforts for it to pass as it is,”
The Korea Times reports that Lee hopes to pass the bill through the National Assembly in February. In my opinion, if he were serious about the plan he would wait until after the April elections, in which Lee’s GNP is expected to win big. If he makes the reorganization plan a campaign issue, and wins, then he’ll have a mandate and won’t have to worry about being accused of playing politics with reunification. On the other hand, if this is just a ploy to get concessions from the UNDP, it could seriously backfire and damage his presidency.
Also, DailyNK has analysis on the “post-Unification Ministry era“