Unification ministry to downsize, overhaul amid tense inter-Korean ties

The unification ministry said Wednesday it plans to slim down and overhaul its organizational structure, including units that oversee inter-Korean exchanges, amid strained ties between the two Koreas and heightened tensions on the peninsula.

Under the plan, the ministry plans to cut 81 employees, roughly 13 percent of its workforce, and merge four divisions -- including those that oversee inter-Korean exchanges and the operation of a now-defunct joint industrial complex in the North -- into one, according to an official gazette.

The move comes as President Yoon Suk Yeol urged for a change in the ministry's function in early July, saying it should no longer act like a "support" agency for the recalcitrant regime.

To prevent a potential policy vacuum coming from the overhaul, the ministry said it plans to "flexibly" run its organization should inter-Korean ties shift to a stage of dialogue and exchange, according to the announcement made prior to legislation.

At the same time, the government plans to establish new units, such as a taskforce aimed at addressing the issue of abductees and detainees in the North, and bolster its role in areas of analyzing intelligence and raising public awareness on reunification.

"The envisioned plan factored in how South-North exchanges and dialogue have been suspended and comes from the notion that a flexible, competitive and efficient organization that is fitting to international political circumstances is necessary," Vice Unification Minister Moon Seoung-hyun told reporters last month.

Following a six-day period from announcing the envisioned measure to the general public, the plan is set to go into effect following a vice ministerial meeting on Aug. 31 and a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 5.

Source: Yonhap News Agency