Official named in Choi’s mystery resignation

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Official named in Choi’s mystery resignation

The abrupt resignation of a member of Park’s transition team may have come as a result of arranging a meeting with a North Korean official, who has been identified as Deputy Minister Pak In-kuk, and a Saenuri party lawmaker, a source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Choi Dae-suk, a member of Park’s inner circle who was in charge of North Korean affairs for the transition team, suddenly and mysteriously stepped down Jan. 12 citing “personal reasons.”

Choi said in a private e-mail to friends that his resignation was not related to “individual corruption” but did not elaborate.

An intelligence source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Jan. 17 that Choi’s resignation probably came after he arranged a closed-door meeting between a senior Saenuri Party lawmaker and a high-ranking North Korean official in Beijing, without government approval.

At the time, the source didn’t elaborate on the identity of the North Korean official. However, another source familiar with North Korea told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday that it was Pak that the Saenuri lawmaker was supposed to allegedly meet.

“The lawmaker, who reportedly had some interactions with Choi, visited Beijing on Dec. 25, last year,” the source said.

“At the time, Pak, a deputy-ministerial-level official at the National Defense Commission [NDC], was waiting for the Saenuri lawmaker in Beijing.

“The lawmaker was staying at the Hilton Hotel near the Korean Embassy in Beijing,” the source added.

“And Pak sent a middleman to the lawmaker, and the Saenuri lawmaker delivered a message about President-elect Park’s upcoming policy-making plans in North Korean affairs and her intention to resume inter-Korean dialogue.”

The source said Pak was born in 1961 and is in charge of inter-Korean businesses and contacts with the South at the NDC. He also frequently visits Beijing, the source said.

However, the meeting between the Saenuri lawmaker and Pak failed to be arranged, the source said, because Pak demanded a hand-written request from Park for such a meeting to take place.

“The Saenuri lawmaker seemed to not be prepared, because he went there without approval from the president-elect,” the source said.

The NDC is the top military body of North Korea, leading the hard-line stance on the South.

Last Thursday, the commission issued a statement warning of a “higher-level nuclear test” in defiance of the tougher UN sanctions against its entities and individuals.

The National Intelligence Service, the South’s chief spy agency, opened an investigation into the unauthorized visit.

“As far as I know, the NIS told Choi ‘you can’t meet with a North Korean official secretly’ at its policy briefing to the transition team on Jan. 12,” the source said.

“There, Choi reportedly expressed displeasure with the NIS officials.”



By Lee Young-jong [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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