Buddhist leader gets North’s South policy spot
Yu Yong-sun, a 68-year-old Buddhist leader, has become North Korea’s senior South Korea policy maker, a top Seoul official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.
Choe Sung-chol, deputy director of the United Front Department of the North Korean Workers’ Party, was in charge of Pyongyang’s South Korean affairs until early last year. After he lost the job, Yu, head of the Korean Buddhists Federation, was appointed to the post, the source said.
“Yu succeeded Choe in March last year,” the source said. “Choe was once deeply trusted by [North Korean] leader Kim Jong-il, but he stepped down because he had failed to accurately assess the outcome of the 2007 presidential election in the South, the Lee Myung-bak administration’s North Korea policy and the outlook for inter-Korean relations.”
The source also said corruption scandals involving the overseas North Korean assistance committee under the United Front Department played a role in Choe’s sacking.
Choe played a crucial role in arranging the second inter-Korean summit between the president of South Korea at the time, Roh Moo-hyun, and Kim in 2007.
Yu, the successor, is not an entirely new face in inter-Korean affairs. Since 2000, he represented the North in several rounds of inter-Korean ministerial talks. He has led the Buddhist group since May 2006.
“We’ve also obtained intelligence that Kwon Ho-ung, who used to be the chief negotiator for the inter-Korean ministerial talks, stepped down from the post and has been put under house arrest,” the source said.
The North reshuffled its cabinet recently, according to the South’s Unification Ministry. Ho Thaek, vice minister of the electric power industry, was promoted to minister. Other minister-level promotions also took place at the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Foreign Trade.
By Jeong Yong-soo JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]