Gov’t, ruling party confirm plan to grant more power to disease control center

SEOUL, The government and the ruling party confirmed Monday a plan to elevate the administrative power and independence of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) that has been on the front lines of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holding a joint meeting, the ruling Democratic Party (DP), government and Cheong Wa Dae officials gave the final nod to the reform plan, initially announced in early June, the chief of the DP’s policy committee, Rep. Cho Jeong-sik, told reporters.
The decision elevates the KCDC, now an organ of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, to an independent administrative body with power to handle its own budget and personnel matters.
Also agreed during the government-party meeting was a decision to allow the KCDC to retain the control of a key national research center, the National Institute of Health.
“The KCDC will be reborn as an independent disease control and prevention administration with a vice ministerial-level head and given autonomy as the main government body in charge of managing contagious diseases and disasters,” Cho said.
“The National Institute of Health will remain an organ of the new administration as it is now, so that the synergy in responding to infectious diseases can be maximized.”
The decision came after President Moon Jae-in ordered a review of the original reform plan several days after its initial announcement in early June.
Under the original version of the reform plan, the control of the National Institute of Health, in charge of infectious disease treatment and vaccine research, was to be transferred to the health ministry from the KCDC as it becomes an independent organ.
The initial reorganization plan, however, came under fire because it would have effectively deprived the KCDC of a key research arm and left it with fewer workers and a smaller budget.
The upgrade of the KCDC comes as the center has been at the vanguard of South Korea’s successful containment of the new coronavirus since its massive outbreaks in late February.
Cho said a revised Government Organization Act reflective of the reform plan will be submitted to the National Assembly within this week for final approval.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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