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Gender Ministry on course for disbandment

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : Feb. 22, 2024 - 14:59

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President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a Cabinet meeting held at the presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a Cabinet meeting held at the presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family faces dissolution as President Yoon Suk Yeol has decided to leave the position of minister of gender equality vacant, in an apparent drive to disband the ministry, one of his key election pledges.

"President Yoon believes it is necessary to express his firm intention to fulfill the pledge at the administrative level, even if a legal revision has yet to be made," a senior presidential official said Thursday. Currently, two amendments to the Government Organization Act, which sets out the terms for abolishing the ministry, have been introduced in the National Assembly, but have not yet been implemented "due to the refusal of the opposition," the official added.

Yoon's acceptance of the resignation of now ex-gender minister Kim Hyun-sook on Tuesday comes six months after Kim offered to resign over the mismanagement of the 25th World Scout Jamboree in August last year.

Yoon had then tapped Kim Haeng, a former member of the ruling People Power Party's interim leadership panel, as the new gender minister, but the plan came to nothing as she withdrew from the nomination amid a slew of controversies, leading to Kim Hyun-sook retaining her position as minister despite her will to resign.

Yoon's office said it will not name a replacement but will have the vice minister take over in an acting capacity instead.

"We plan to make preparations for the transfer of duties under the leadership of Vice Gender Equality Minister Shin Young-sook, who is an expert on organizational reform," the official explained.

The decision comes amid steps to diminish the influence of the Gender Ministry as the president designated the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy as the control tower to counteract the problem of the low birth rate, at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Abolishing the Gender Ministry was one of Yoon's most controversial campaign pledges, as women's groups alleged that he was catering to young male voters who harbored resentment towards the growing influence of feminism.

Accepting the resignation of the gender minister less than 50 days before the general election, after it had been put on hold for five months, is seen by observers as an attempt to drive votes to the ruling party.

Han Dong-hoon, chairman of the emergency committee of the People Power Party has said that if the party wins the majority after the general election, it will create a new "Population Ministry" at the level of the vice prime minister to take over the functions of the Ministry of Gender Equality.

Some observers told the local media that the announcement could appeal to male voters in their 20s and 30s.