The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy suggested keeping the Coast Guard intact and establishing a full-fledged safety-related ministry on Wednesday, opposing the government’s plans head on.
Following the April 16 ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing, the Park Geun-hye administration drew up government reorganization plans focused on social and safety issues. Under the plans, the Coast Guard and National Emergency Management Agency would be absorbed into a new ministry that will be established to oversee safety issues. The new ministry, known tentatively as the Ministry of National Safety, would be a lower-level ministry placed under the control of the Prime Minister’s Office. The PMO, in turn, would serve as the control tower in responding to crises similar to the ferry disaster.
The NPAD’s plans, however, call for a full-fledged ministry to be established and the Coast Guard and NEMA to be retained. The main opposition party tentatively named the organization the Ministry of People’s Safety.
“The government’s plan is to dismantle and reduce NEMA and the Coast Guard to downgrade them, which is very wrong,” said Rep. Cho Jeong-sik, the chief of the NPAD’s special committee on government reorganization.
Instead of abolishing the two organizations, the NPAD suggests that they should be established as agencies of the ministry and that their functions should be strengthened.
Under the plans, the Coast Guard and NEMA would be responsible for safety-related issues including rescue work at sea and on land, respectively. The plans also call for the removal of the Coast Guard’s functions regarding investigations and intelligence-gathering on land. The Coast Guard, which has received the heaviest fire for mishandling the Sewol ferry accident, would retain related powers in developments taking place at sea.
The main opposition party also reiterated its demands for Cheong Wa Dae’s National Security Council to become the crisis management control tower.
“In times of national crises and emergencies, there is a need for full state support including NEMA, the Coast Guard and even the military,” Cho said.
The president has the responsibility to hold command (in issues) regarding the safety of the people.”
In addition, the NPAD’s plans would also see the establishment of an anticorruption commission, a welfare agency for senior citizens and a division specializing in cybersecurity within the safety ministry.
The ruling Saenuri Party, however, is unlikely to give way to the NPAD’s demands easily.
“The government’s original plans must be adhered to,” Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Lee Wan-koo told local media.
“The opposition will be listened to, but as the responsible ruling party (the Saenuri Party) needs to give more weight to the government’s plans.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)