South Korea’s president appoints new minister in charge of North Korea relations

Seoul, June 29 (EFE).- South Korea’s president Yoon Suk-yeol on Thursday appointed a conservative academic known for his tough stance on Pyongyang as new unification minister to oversee North Korea relations.

Yoon’s cabinet reshuffle includes the appointment of another minister and 11 deputy ministers.

The nominee, Kim Yung-ho, a 63-year-old professor at Sungshin Women’s University, is known for his conservative side and criticism of the North Korean regime and its human rights violations.

Kim has a degree in diplomacy from the prestigious Seoul National University and a doctorate from the University of Virginia, United States, with a thesis on the Korean War.

In his youth he was a student activist and a considered a leftist academic who published translations into Korean from works of the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci and from Soviet Union communism theory books, according to Yonhap news agency.

In the wake of the 1987 riots to restore democracy, he spent 10 months in prison for publishing “unlawful” materials and breaching the National Security Act.

It was through his studies abroad and research on the Korean War that Yonhap says Kim underwent a radical transition to the right.

After his release from prison he began teaching political science and diplomacy at Sungshin in 1999 and in 2005 became associated with the new conservative moment, taking on advisory positions at the foreign, veterans and unification ministries, before being appointed presidential secretary for unification affairs during the term of conservative president Lee Myung-bak in 2011.

Between 2012 and 2013 he was ambassador for human rights within the foreign ministry of the government of the also-conservative president Park Geun-hye.

“I will do my best to handle the North Korean nuclear issue with principles and build a foundation for improving South-North relations,” Kim said at the press conference Thursday to present all the appointments, Yonhap reported.

His appointment is still subject to a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

If his nomination is approved, Kim will replace more moderate Kwon Young-se, who took office in May last year and who has had to deal with the almost total communication blackout from North Korea, which after the failure of denuclearization talks in 2019 has refused to return to dialogue.

Kwon has been in charge of trying to implement the so-called “audacious initiative” proposed by Yoon, which involves offering Pyongyang economic development aid in exchange for denuclearization.

Among the other appointments within Yoon’s cabinet is that of Kim Hong-il, a lawyer and former head of the Busan High Prosecutor’s Office, who was appointed new director of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, a position with ministerial rank in the Asian country. EFE


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