Ex-lawmaker Park named new spy agency chief

04-Jul-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 8:45 AM Print This Post

NIS chief named as national security adviser, ruling party lawmaker as unification minister

Park Jie-won, a former chief of staff of President Kim Dae-jung, has been nominated to lead the nation’s spy agency, replacing Suh Hoon, who has been named as director of the National Security Office (NSO), Cheong Wa Dae announced, Friday.

Rep. Lee In-young, a former floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), has been nominated for unification minister, while Im Jong-seok, a former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, will be a special adviser for diplomatic and security affairs. Chung Eui-yong, the outgoing NSO chief, will also remain as a key security adviser to Moon.

Analysts said the reshuffle of the diplomatic and national security team means the Moon administration will push harder for its North Korea policy amid soured inter-Korean relations, given that the key posts have been filled with pro-Pyongyang figures.

Park, a veteran politician who failed to win his fifth term as a lawmaker in the April 15 general election, is known for his role in arranging the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 between Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, father of the current leader. In March 2000, Park was a special envoy for discussion about a meeting in Singapore with Song Ho-gyong, vice chair of the North’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

Given that the 78-year-old is not a close aide to President Moon and is not a member of the DPK, the unexpected choice of Park is seen as the President’s determination to get stalled inter-Korean ties back on track with the high-profile politician, who has a wealth of knowhow on policy toward the North.

“Along with his contributions to the historic first South-North summit in 2000, Park has served as an adviser on inter-Korean affairs with the current government, which helped him gain recognition for his expertise on the North,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok said at a briefing, adding that Park was the right fit for reforming the National Intelligence Service (NIS).

The new NSO chief Suh stressed he would make strong efforts to gain international support for the South’s policy toward the North.

“I plan to hold strong talks with neighbouring countries and particularly with our ally, the United States,” he told reporters at the presidential office following the announcement.

A four-term lawmaker, Lee was highly expected to fill in for former Unification minister Kim Yeon-chul, who stepped down over the worsened inter-Korean relations, highlighted by the demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in the North Korean city of Gaeseong last month.

“President Moon believes Lee is the best fit to normalise the frayed inter-Korean relations with his legislative experience and restore trust between the two Koreas en route to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Kang said.

The NIS head and unification minister nominees need to be confirmed at the National Assembly, while the national security adviser position does not require such a process. Moon plans to officially appoint Suh as early as Monday.

Im, who had been expected to either take over as chief of the spy agency or become a presidential national security adviser, will give Moon advice on diplomatic affairs together with Chung.

“Im has a wealth of expertise in diplomatic affairs,” the spokesman said.

Park Won-gon, a professor of international politics at Handong Global University, said the latest reshuffle would pave the way for the Moon administration to adopt a harder drive for independent inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation with the North, separate from the North’s halted denuclearisation talks with the United States.

“President Moon made it clear that the South Korean government will tighten its policy of more engagement with the North,” he said.

“As for the outgoing NSO chief Chung, he was a career diplomat who considered diplomatic ties with the US and others as well as the North, but the key figures of the new diplomatic and national security team are specialised in the North.”



Category: Korea

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