gov't reorganization bill-passage

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- The National Assembly on Friday passed a bill to reorganize the government under new President Park Geun-hye following a near-two-month parliamentary impasse that blocked the administration from fully forming.

The revision endorses the creation of two ministries -- the future creation and science ministry and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries -- and the promotion of finance minister to the post of deputy prime minister, as well as the reassignment of responsibilities among existing offices, such as the transfer of trade negotiating functions from the foreign ministry to the commerce ministry, among other things.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Under the new portfolio, the Park administration will have 17 ministries, three lower-level ministries and 17 offices. The previous government of Lee Myung-bak had 15 ministries, two lower-level ministries and 18 offices.

The government is to hold a Cabinet meeting Friday night to approve the reorganization bill. If endorsed, it will take effect on Saturday, which is expected to lead to the relocation of some 1,400 civil servants, according to the office of the prime minister.

Recurring disagreements between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) delayed the bill's passage and affected the parliamentary confirmation process for Park's Cabinet nominees. This forced the president to take office on Feb. 25 without her own Cabinet and left the new government in limbo for nearly a month.

On Sunday, the two parties agreed to pass the bill after reaching a deal on the transfer of some responsibilities from the watchdog Korea Communications Commission (KCC) to the future creation and science ministry, which the DUP had feared would lead to a strengthening of government control over the media.

Park and the ruling party have argued that the transfer is necessary to boost government efficiency.

However, in the process of passing each reorganization proposal through relevant parliamentary committees, the parties each accused the other of misinterpreting several clauses regarding the transfer and failed to meet their agreed-upon deadline to pass the bill during a full Assembly session on Wednesday.

Late Thursday, the Saenuri Party agreed to accept the DUP's demands calling for the KCC to have greater oversight over broadcasting industry regulations in what critics said was a move to divert public attention away from the sudden resignation earlier in the day of a vice justice minister implicated in a sex scandal.

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