Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Help wanted?

If the first 30 or so days of Lee Myung Bak as president-elect is any indication, this blog is going to need more volunteers.

I've been busy and haven't posted much, but it seems from all the ministries the guy is closing down and from attitudes towards labour, peaceful engagement with North Korea, Human Rights, etc, it is going to be quite a season.

For the moment, some reading from the Herald and the Choson on LMB's decision to close the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family:

Women's groups slam ministry closure

Women's rights groups are stepping up their opposition to plans to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which they claim would significantly weaken policies to support women and get rid of gender-based discrimination.

President-elect Lee Myung-bak's government transition team is looking to integrate the ministry with the Health and Welfare Ministry as part of a sweeping government reorganization plan.

A group of former and incumbent heads of ministries and public agencies handling gender-related policies yesterday issued a statement calling for the consolidation plan to be scrapped.

A coalition of 30 women's rights advocacy groups launched a nationwide petition to retain the ministry and promote gender equality.

They criticized Lee for breaking his campaign promise to enhance the ministry.

On Nov. 30 Lee said in a nationally televised meeting, "I will combine all the functions across the other ministries into the Gender Equality Ministry. Publicly stating such a thing makes me feel burdened during this campaign period, however, I will make good on this promise without fail."

Their outrage was further fuelled by recent remarks by Lee which seemingly disparaged the ministry.

"The ministry is only for those who assert female power," Lee said Friday during a meeting with Democratic Party leaders.

"We are disappointed and concerned about Lee's warped prejudice against and denunciation of the Gender Equality Ministry. His statement manifests his fundamental lack of understanding of the ministry," former and incumbent senior ministry officials, including Minster Jang Ha-jin and former ministers Han Myeong-sook and Chi Eun-hee, said in a statement.

"The ministry's work to date has not been to seek 'female power.' We should not forget that the ministry's efforts are based on the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination to enhance the rights of the women in the dead zones of our society," the statement added.

The 30-group coalition also held a press conference in downtown Seoul declaring a nationwide campaign against the plan.

"The proposed plan to merge the ministry with the Health and Welfare Ministry is equivalent to absorbing women into a patriarchal welfare paradigm, which would make gender-equality policies vanish into thin air," it said.

It added that there is a need for society to ensure equality and care, and that the ministry has a role to play in forging a new paradigm.

The transition team on Monday submitted 45 legislative bills seeking to restructure the new government, which is scheduled to take power on Feb. 25. The plan includes the creation of the Health, Welfare and Gender Equality Ministry which combine the functions of the two ministries and the Government Youth Commission.

By Song Sang-ho


Women’s Groups Ready to Fight for Gender Ministry

Women's rights groups are voicing growing resistance to the next government’s plan to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Women's organizations, academics and lawyers, be they progressive or conservative, are unanimously calling for the ministry to be retained.

On Tuesday morning, eight former and incumbent chiefs of government agencies for women-related affairs, including Kim Young-jeong, Lee Yun-sook and Yoon Hoo-jung, issued a statement saying president-elect Lee Myung-bak's remarks at the Democratic Party headquarters last Friday, “show how insufficient his understanding of the Gender Equality Ministry is, a government agency that has made efforts to improve the rights of most women. He has very dangerous notions that can cause women's policies to regress."

Visiting DP headquarters last Friday, the president elect said, "The Gender Equality Ministry is a government agency designed for those who want (political) power for women."

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, progressive and conservative women's organizations jointly launched a campaign to collect 1 million signatures to keep the ministry and realize gender equality in society.

Prof. Lee Young-ja of the Catholic University of Korea said, "In the past, women were silenced in everything. But now women are calling for their own rights. Is this their expression of ambition for political power? A majority of women are still suffering human rights violations. When he was invited to a seminar on women's policies as presidential candidate in November last year, he promised to retain and expand the Gender Equality Ministry. But after the election, he reneged on his promise. We should bring criminal charges against him for fraud."

Oh Yoo-seok, the head of the Korea Women's Political Solidarity, said the groups are ready to occupy the National Assembly if necessary.


  1. did you also see his plans to put the National Human Rights Commission under the Presidential Office? Amnesty released a public statement on it:http://www.amnesty.org/en/alfresco_asset/ba9b20d7-c5ea-11dc-9af1-b1d22f3b300e/asa250012008eng.pdf

  2. Yeah, rollback of a lot of what progressives have established. I'm sure a lot of the internal investigations of the different presidential committees will be eliminated as well. I noticed a flurry of publication from them (like the investigations into political trials, the KCIA, etc from the dictatorship period) before the election. But hey, isn't this just making government more 'efficient'? Who needs to worry about human or labour rights or history for that matter?