The government and the ruling party are trying to persuade the opposition party on the abolishment and reorganization of the Gender Ministry, arguing that the ministry’s functions will be strengthened following the measures.
The ruling People Power Party’s government organization reform bill has caused major ripples over the past few days with the Gender Ministry reorganization. The reform involves abolishing the ministry and dividing its functions between the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
The reform plan has been met with rebukes that the government is ignoring women’s rights. In response to the criticism, the government and ruling party are now saying that the abolishment would not lead to the end of the ministry’s functions, but that they would be strengthened after the changes.
“I believe the policies of the Gender Ministry will be expanded and strengthened in its budget and content in connection with health, welfare, employment and labor measures,” Gender Minister Kim Hyun-sook said at a meeting held with local women’s groups to discuss the abolition of the ministry on Monday.
“As all functions of the Gender Ministry will continue to be carried out even after the transfer without any reduction or decadence, now is the time to hold discussions with experts and those on the scene for the development of the related policies and projects,” Kim said.
Kim called for cooperation from women’s groups that would help “both genders” to promote gender equality.
However, the ministry did not invite groups that had voiced opposition against the planned measure, saying there would be another event to gather opinions soon.
President Yoon Suk-yeol, who had proposed the abolition among his election pledges when on the campaign trail, said the government will strengthen protection for women through the abolition.
"We will strengthen protection for women, and move away from using the term 'alleged victim' in sexual offenses caused by abuse of power,” Yoon said Friday.
The presidential office backed the statement.
“The abolition of the ministry does not mean scrapping its previous functions,” said Ahn Sang-hoon, senior presidential secretary for social affairs. “It is rather about strengthening its functions according to the changing times.”
Despite the assertions, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea remains skeptical of the reform, questioning whether the core functions of the Gender Ministry would be transferred entirely to the Welfare Ministry.
With the Democratic Party’s Chairman Lee Jae-myung expressing his concern over the reform scheme, the opposition party, which holds a majority in the National Assembly with 169 out of 299 seats, is unlikely to easily go along with the plan.
The Democratic Party has continued to accuse the president and ruling party of using the Gender Ministry’s abolishment as a tool to deal with political crises.
"The (abolishment plan) is (an act of) irresponsibility that ignores the social structure in which the younger generation suffers under," Democratic Party Rep. Park Yong-jin wrote on his social media account on Monday.
"President Yoon has been using gender conflict as a cheat code for the recovery of his approval ratings since the presidential election," he said. "If there is a problem within the Gender Ministry, we should be fixing that problem within the Gender Ministry."
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)