At confirmation, Yu pledges to be ‘flexible’ on North

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At confirmation, Yu pledges to be ‘flexible’ on North

Minister of Unification-designate Yu Woo-ik promised “flexibility” in dealing with North Korea at his confirmation hearing yesterday, signaling the Blue House’s desire to thaw cross-border relations in President Lee Myung-bak’s remaining time in office.

Yu had been hinting at a change in the government’s North Korea policy since his appointment, including the possibility of further talks with Pyongyang.

“The government has so far been consistent with its fundamental policies with the cooperation of the international community,” Yu said. “Based on that, I would like to find methodological flexibility in order to create real development between North and South Korea.”

Yu also called on North Korea to take responsible action to “form trust between the two Koreas” but stopped short of naming specific concerns about issues of contention, such as last year’s North Korean attacks on the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island.

The minister-designate said that he agreed with Lee’s stated views on helping North Korean open up if it vowed to denuclearize but added that the policy was “overly interpreted,” preventing South Korea from moving forward without a denuclearization promise.

The former presidential aide and ambassador to China said family reunions between North and South Korea would also be a priority under his leadership. Humanitarian aid to North Korea would also be continued, he said, saying that help for the victims of recent flooding in the North was “prepared.”

When asked if he had pushed for summit talks between Lee and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during his time in the Blue House or China, Yu said he had not, but he expressed a need for such conversations, referring to a summit as a “useful tool.”

Yu added that summit talks could only be held if North Korea made an effort to apologize for last year’s provocations on South Korea and took responsible action.

Keeping in line with the administration’s current stance on Mount Kumgang, Yu said cross-border tourism would not resume unless the safety of South Korean tourists was guaranteed by Pyongyang.

“Through many different ways, I will try to solve this issue by talking with North Korea,” he said. “In addition to talks, [the South Korean government] will also use legal and diplomatic measures.”

By Christine Kim []
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