New Unification Minister to Improve Ties with Pyongyang

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South Korean president Moon Jae-in has replaced his unification minister who played a major role in last year’s detente with the North, his office said March 8, and named a longtime confidant to lead Moon’s drive for “a new Korean peninsula.” Kim Yeon-chul, a pro-engagement scholar who heads the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, will replace Cho Myoung-gyon pending a confirmation hearing. Kim, 55, is a North Korea studies professor and adviser to a previous administration in which Moon also served. “He is the right man who can actively embody the president’s vision for a new Korean peninsula, a new peace and cooperation community, by carrying out the Unification Ministry’s main policy tasks without a hitch and implementing inter-Korean agreements in a speedy manner,” Moon’s spokesman told a news briefing.

The change was part of Moon’s largest cabinet reshuffle since taking office in 2017, with new ministers for the interior, land and transportation, culture and sport, oceans and fisheries, science and technology, and small and medium enterprises. The removal of Cho, after the second summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to narrow their differences on dismantling the North’s nuclear programme and US willingness to ease sanctions.