중앙데일리

Aides waffle on China meet

Roh’s role queried in North-South contact there

Mar 06,2003
The Blue House seemed uncertain about how to react to a reported meeting by National Security Adviser Ra Jong-yil with a senior North Korean official before President Roh Moo-hyun took office. Mr. Ra confirmed that he had met North Korean officials there, but said it was not the man cited in a Joong-Ang Ilbo article yesterday; he also denied having extended an invitation for a visit here by North Korea’s strongman, Kim Jong-il.
The president’s spokeswoman, Song Kyoung-hee, issued contradictory statements during the day about President Roh’s involvement in the matter and finally settled on refusing to say anything about it at all.
Yesterday’s report said that Mr. Ra, then Korea’s ambassador to Great Britain, met Jon Kum-chol, the deputy head of a Pyeongyang group that handles relations with South Korea in Beijing on Feb. 20 to extend that invitation.
Mr. Ra tried to brush aside reporters’ questions yesterday, denying much of the report and in particular that he had extended the invitation. During her morning press briefing, Ms. Song first said Mr. Ra was not in Beijing on President Roh Moo-hyun’s instructions and that Mr. Roh had not known about the trip until he saw the article. Later in the briefing, however, she said the president may have received a report from Mr. Ra in February about his trip.
Ms. Song also said that Mr. Roh suggested to Mr. Ra that he meet reporters to explain what happened. Mr. Ra did not appear at the Blue House briefing room, and Ms. Song later said the national security adviser thought the matter too unimportant to address.
The Grand National Party charged that secret dealings with the North are continuing in the Roh administration and that Mr. Roh’s aides were trying to pay off the North even before coming into office.
Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun told a radio interviewer that he had been unaware of the trip, but said a visit here by Kim Jong-il would be “a good idea.”


by Choi Hoon, Nam Jeong-ho


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