South Korea's unification minister steps down over rising tensions with North Korea

South Korea's unification minister steps down over rising tensions with North Korea

Kim Yeon-chul, a nominee for South Korean Unification MInister, attends a confirmation hearing for
FILE PHOTO: Kim Yeon-chul, a nominee for South Korean Unification MInister, attends a confirmation hearing for the post of Unification Minister at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday (Jun 19) accepted the resignation of the minister responsible for relations with North Korea, as tensions with Pyongyang rise over the activities of defectors in the South and stalled diplomacy.

South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with North Korea, offered on Wednesday to step down, making himself accountable for the worsening ties.

Kim said he "takes responsibility" for the worsening of inter-Korean relations.

In his resignation statement, Kim expressed hope that his departure "will be a chance to pause for a bit".

"One can never overcome hatred with hatred," he told reporters. "There are many wounds to heal in inter-Korean relations ... We have to stop here."

The North's official KCNA news agency on Friday blamed the South for the rising tensions, calling Seoul's condemnation of its blowing up of the office "a guilty party filing the suit first".

"All measures taken by us are punishments" that the South "deserves for their crimes", KCNA said in the commentary.

North Korea has snubbed Seoul's calls for engagement as efforts to restart inter-Korean economic projects stalled due to international sanctions designed to rein in the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

READ: South Korea says it will no longer accept unreasonable behaviour by North Korea

READ: North Korea rejects South's offer of envoys, vows to send back troops to border

Pyongyang has also taken issue over defectors in the South sending propaganda leaflets into North Korea.

Citing South Korea's failure to stop the defectors, North Korea this week blew up the joint liaison office on its side of the border, declared an end to dialogue with South Korea and threatened military action.

READ: North Korea blows up liaison office with South in Kaesong

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Cho Hye-sil told a briefing on Friday that an emigre planning to send hundreds of bottles stuffed with rice, medicine and medical face masks to North Korea by throwing them into the sea near the border on Sunday, had been asked to abandon its plan.

She warned that authorities would stop the group, and others like it, from carrying out such plans, and would seek to impose penalties for violations of a law governing inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation.

After a flurry of barbed statements earlier this week, North Korean officials did not issue direct criticism of South Korea for a second day in a row on Friday.

But state media kept up steady stream of reports on North Koreans "exploding with anger" at the South.

Source: Reuters/ga

Bookmark