Korean communication ministry shuttered

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SEOUL -- South Korean President-elect Lee Myung-bak on Wednesday dissolved the Ministry of Information and Communication in a drive for leaner government, a move media industry analysts worry may tangle rather than loosen the country's telecommunications bureaucracy.

"We absolutely should not accept these new plans," said Hyun Dai-won, Sogang University mass communications professor and Korean Film Archive board member. "It splits IT policy into three new departments. I am very disappointed."

Under Lee's plan, the MIC's telecom-related tasks will move to the newly formed Broadcasting Communications Commission while other work performed by the MIC will be divided between the new Ministry of Economy and Industry and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Information.

Despite being one of the most wired nations on Earth, the convergence of different media has brought South Korea more bureaucratic wrangling than progress, as government agencies have moved to protecting their turf more than to promote such new technologies as Internet Protocol Television.

The MIC and the Korean Broadcasting Commission in particular clashed for years over who would control the future of convergence technology.

"I have some clients who will not be shedding any tears for the MIC," Brendon Carr, an American lawyer based in Seoul, said.

Lee, a former construction magnate, featured several IT-related initiatives in his election campaign, including a pledge to use "IT-based convergence technology as the engine of economic development" and to deregulate communications.

In Lee's plans announced Wednesday, four other government ministries also were dissolved and some 7,000 civil servants laid off.
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