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NPAD steps up pressure over government reorganization plans

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy pressed its attack on the government reorganization plans Thursday in face of continued silence on the issue from the presidential office.

Calling the government’s plans “haphazard,” the main opposition party once again called on the ruling Saenuri Party to consider alternatives.

“The people should not be jeopardized by a haphazard government reorganization. The Saenuri Party should listen carefully to the NPAD’s alternative and engage (in discussion),” chief of NPAD’s government reorganization committee Rep. Cho Jeong-sik said.

On Wednesday, the NPAD proposed an alternative to President Park Geun-hye’s government reorganization plans drawn up in the wake of April 16 Sewol ferry disaster.

In it, the NPAD proposed that Cheong Wa Dae’s National Security Council serve as the control tower for emergencies, and that a full-fledged ministry be set up to oversee related matters.

The president’s plans, in contrast, would see the establishment of a lower-level ministry for safety issues under the Prime Minister’s Office, which would serve as the control tower. The government’s plans would also see the Coast Guard and the National Emergency Management Agency absorbed into the new organization.

The ruling party against launched a counterattack against the NPAD, accusing it of overstepping its bounds.

“Government organization reflects (the president’s) fundamental principles for running state affairs, and if the administration operates within the framework set up by the opposition, who is running state affairs?” Saenuri Party secretary-general Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun said. He also said that the NPAD’s suggestion went far beyond modifying the government’s plans.

The NPAD accuses the ruling party of simply protecting the president.

“It is nothing more than another ploy to protect the president. (The government’s plans) are nonsensical,” an opposition official said, requesting anonymity.

He added that making a full-fledged ministry would make its chief a member of the Cabinet, and that including the post on the NSC would enable a faster, government-wide response to emergencies.

“Otherwise, the chief will have to report to the prime minister, and the prime minister to the president. Mobilizing the military and other organizations will require authorization and the so-called golden time will be wasted on getting authorizations.”

Some critics also say that placing the new safety ministry under the prime minister is a ploy to remove the president from the line of fire should similar disasters recur. In addition, criticism is rising that Cheong Wa Dae effectively acted as the control tower but later attempted to distance itself from the issue when the rescue did not go as initially expected.

A week after the accident, which left more than 300 people dead or missing, NSC chief Kim Jang-soo denied that his organization was the control tower.

However, contradictory recordings of phone conversations between Cheong Wa Dae and the Coast Guard have since been revealed in the parliamentary investigation.

In the recordings, Cheong Wa Dae officials are heard requesting detailed information from the Coast Guard regarding the Sewol’s situation, and giving instructions about the rescue operations. In addition, Cheong Wa Dae officials later relayed orders from the president that a Coast Guard official was instructed to take down in writing.

By Choi He-suk  (