Minister confirms Gender Ministry merger plan
Published : Oct 6, 2022 - 18:43
Updated : Oct 6, 2022 - 22:59

Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family will be abolished and its core functions will be subsumed by other ministries, according to the reform plans announced by the Ministry of Interior and Safety on Thursday.

The plans also include the creation of a new body to address issues concerning overseas Koreans, and elevation of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs' status.

The government will aim to pass the proposed amendment to the Government Organization Act at the National Assembly. If the government's reform plan goes through as planned, the Gender Ministry will cease to exist 21 years after it was inaugurated.

The government’s reform plan was announced by Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min during a press conference in Seoul on Thursday.

According to Lee, major roles of the Gender Ministry will be transferred to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. A new department will be created within the Welfare Ministry to take over the Gender Ministry’s existing roles. The Gender Ministry's role involving women’s employment, in the meantime, will be moved to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

Lee explained that the government has decided to abolish the Gender Ministry due to “inefficiencies” that come from functions that overlap with those of other ministries. Lee added that the Gender Ministry’s focus on policies for women and adolescents also prevent the government from introducing more comprehensive welfare policies.

Lee also hinted that the government will move away from focusing on making policies only for women, and shift the “paradigm” to focus more on equal rights for both sexes.

When asked if the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea would oppose the plan, Lee offered assurance that the core roles of the Gender Ministry would continue in other ministries.

Lee said the government will seek cooperation from the main opposition party to pass the amendment at the National Assembly and embark on the current administration's delayed plan for structural reform.

During his presidential campaign, President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to abolish the Gender Ministry on the basis that it had failed to fulfill its role. However, his pledge was met with criticism from the main opposition party and civic groups, which contended that Yoon was attempting to ingratiate himself with young male voters.

Local women's rights organizations on Thursday also raised their voices against the government’s reform plan, arguing that the president is using the reform plan to shift attention amid the recent shortcomings of his administration.

Meanwhile, the government’s reform plan also included the installation of a new agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that aims to handle Korean residents abroad. Lee explained that the new government body has become increasingly required, as the number of Korean residents abroad has increased, totaling 7.3 million as of 2021.

If created, it will be the Foreign Ministry’s first agency, according to a government official.

"It is a long-cherished project for Koreans living abroad," the official said. The details of how the ministry will operate the new agency, however, have not been fully determined, the official added.

Under the reform scheme, the government plans to elevate the status of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to an independent ministry as well. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs is currently under the wing of the Prime Minister’s Office.

By Shim Woo-hyun (