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(News Focus) New gov't paralyzed without Cabinet, division of duties
SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- Two days have passed since President Park Geun-hye was sworn in, but the new government remains paralyzed by the absence of a new Cabinet and uncertainty over what each office should do.

   A parliamentary impasse over Park's government restructuring bill has left government ministries and offices confused as to what their new responsibilities are and who they will be working with.

   At the same time, none of the new Cabinet nominees apart from Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has been confirmed by parliament, leaving the top decision-making body in a vacuum.

   "The government reorganization and confirmation hearings needed for the new government's launch are all stuck in parliament, creating a vacuum in the work of government ministries," a ruling Saenuri Party official said. "The ruling and opposition parties must immediately reach a grand compromise."


The bill, submitted to the National Assembly on Jan. 30, calls for a series of changes to the government's organizational layout, including the creation of a new science ministry, the revival of the fisheries and maritime affairs ministry, and the transfer of the foreign ministry's trade negotiating functions to the commerce ministry.

   The Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) have repeatedly failed to meet their agreed-upon deadlines to reach a compromise over the bill, with the DUP vehemently opposed to the transfer of broadcasting policy to the new science ministry.

   Though not mandated by law, each new South Korean leader has reorganized the government's structure according to their specific philosophies and goals since Park's father Park Chung-hee took power in a 1961 coup. With the return to democracy in 1988, the government reshuffles have occurred every five years at the beginning of a new president's term, but it is rare for a new government to launch so long after a president takes office.

   Parliamentary confirmation hearings for Cabinet nominees are also far behind schedule.

   The prime minister was the first to be approved by parliament on Tuesday, with 12 other nominees scheduled to undergo hearings through March 6. It's uncertain when the five remaining nominees will have their hearings because one faces allegations of serious ethical lapses while the others have been named to head ministries that don't legally exist yet.

   This forced the administration to cancel what was supposed to be the new government's first Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

   Park instead held a meeting with her senior secretaries on Wednesday morning. Even there, however, Kim Jang-soo, the chief of the presidential office of national security, was absent because the office has yet to come into being under the government reorganization bill.

   The absence of the national security office, which Park created to act as a "control tower" for security affairs, has raised concerns about policy coordination amid high tensions following North Korea's third nuclear test earlier this month.

   The impasse over the reorganization bill has created problems for a number of ministries and departments, including the foreign ministry's trade division.


"We're doing what we have to do, but we're not at all able to get the big picture," said a senior trade official. "The new government's trade strategies have not been established and there's been no progress on issues that need to be discussed between ministries."

   Officials at the education and science ministry said they're also confused as to what they should be doing because some of them will soon have to move to the new science ministry once it is launched.

   "Even within the same department, we have people handling education issues who will be staying at the government complex in Seoul and others handling science issues who will be moving to (the government complex in) Sejong," said a ministry official. "I have to admit we're not doing any more work than what's necessary."