SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s new conservative government said Thursday it will push to scrap a gender equality ministry and create a new agency with broader powers, one of the president’s controversial campaign promises. Yoon Suk-yeol who upset the hotly contested March election.
During the campaign, Yoon faced criticism that his promise to abolish the Ministry of Gender and Family Equality sought to attract young male voters who disapprove of gender equality policies in a highly competitive job market. Yoon said it’s time to start a body with more integrated roles, saying women in South Korea no longer face structural barriers to success.
The outlook for his government’s plans to abolish the ministry is still unclear as it requires approval from the Liberal-controlled parliament. A women’s committee in the main liberal opposition Democratic Party has vowed to thwart the government’s plans, saying they will not solve systemic discrimination against women in South Korea.
Interior and Security Minister Lee Sang-min said at a televised briefing on Thursday that the new paradigm for government policies on women should be about equal rights for both men and women, as opposed to the current approach that focuses only in solving the inequalities faced by women.
Lee said the gender equality ministry has made efforts to address discrimination against women. But he said the ministry was limited in its ability to handle a range of wider pressing issues, including gender and generational conflicts, population decline and social problems for the elderly.
Lee said the ministry’s duties on gender equality and family and youth affairs would be transferred to the ministry of health and welfare, while its responsibilities for women’s employment would be transferred to the ministry of employment and labour.
He said the Yun government would like to establish a new agency responsible for population, family and gender issues under the ministry of health and welfare.
Lee said he had briefed the Democratic Party on the restructuring plans, and that opposition party officials had raised concerns that the plans would end up curtailing the gender ministry’s current roles. Lee said that under the reorganization plans, the roles and tasks provided in the ministry will be carried out more efficiently.
Earlier this week, a women’s committee of the Democratic Party issued a statement accusing the Yun administration of trying to use the restructuring plans to distract public opinion from several alleged mistakes in foreign policy, including controversial comments by Yun caught in a hot mic in the united states. He said he would take strong action to prevent the plans from becoming law.
The Yun government and the Democratic Party have been on a collision course over a number of issues, including government pressure to investigate past incidents allegedly involving the Democratic Party leader and other former government officials. Last week, the Democratic Party, which has majority status in the National Assembly, passed a resolution calling for the dismissal of Yun’s foreign minister, but the president refused to accept it.