Updated April. 26, 2013 06:44
The proposal to designate a weekday as an alternative holiday if a national holiday falls on Sunday was a campaign pledge by Moon Jae-in, the former presidential candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, not President Park Geun-hyes. During last years presidential campaign period, Moon pledged to introduce alternative holidays to promote the leisure industry as an economic growth engine.
However, the alternative holiday system has been included in major state tasks drawn up by Parks presidential transition committee in February, even though it was not a promise made by the president. As the National Assembly is moving to pass a bill on the alternative holiday system, the administration, which is supposed to implement the major state tasks, is trying to dissuade lawmakers from enacting the bill.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has long been trying to introduce the alternative holiday system, as nothing is more effective in promoting culture and tourism industries than to have more holidays. The Culture and Tourism Institute, a state-funded think tank under the ministry, claimed in 2010 that the introduction of alternative holidays would create 85,000 jobs and the effect on production inducement worth 4.9 trillion won (4.4. billion U.S. dollars). However, the ministrys attempts have been foiled by the business community and other economy-related ministries and agencies.
It is said that Mo Chul-min, a former official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism who is now senior presidential secretary for education and cultural affairs, led the presidential transition committees inclusion of the alternative holiday system into the major state tasks. Another member of the transition committee, former economic bureaucrat, was opposed to the inclusion. However, he could not stop Mo from including the alternative holiday system into the tasks in the field of culture as the two were in charge of different sectors.
However, when the Park administration selected 204 tasks that required legislative actions, the alternative holiday system was not included. Some said that the system required only a revision of a presidential decree, rather than enactment. But the system was not even included in a list of tasks that the administration would seek to revise regulations.
The proposal was literally missing within the administration. Although the Culture Ministry still insists on introducing the system, its initiative is said to have lost steam as other ministries expressed reservations.
In contrast, discussions on alternative holidays gained momentum in the National Assembly. There was little objection even within the ruling Saenuri Party, let alone in the main opposition party, which pledged to introduce the system last year, because a bill that increases the number of holidays could help win votes in elections and the proposal was included in the presidential transition committees major state tasks. Finally, a parliamentary subcommittee reviewing bills has passed the proposal, which is now set to be introduced to the plenary session.
The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae expressed its position that it is not desirable to push ahead with the bill despite opposition from the business community at a time when reviving the slumping economy is a top priority issue. However, its position is awkward because adopting alternative holidays is one of the administrations tasks.