Outline laid out for new unification committee

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Outline laid out for new unification committee

The Blue House yesterday announced its plan to form President Park Geun-hye’s proposed preparation committee for the unification of the two Koreas, expected to become the de facto authority in overall inter-Korean affairs under the direction of the president.

Chaired by the president herself, the committee will consist of 50 members from the government and the private sector, Ju Chul-ki, the chief presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national defense, said at a briefing.

Members from the government will include the ministers of strategy and finance, foreign affairs, unification and national defense, and several senior presidential secretaries from the Blue House.

As chairwoman, President Park will select two vice presidents, the presidential office said, although nominees have yet to be determined.

The committee will hold a regular meeting in each quarter of the year, with emergency meetings called by the president or a vice president.

The committee will focus on discussing and determining steps to take in preparing for unification, and will raise public awareness and advocate for unification, particularly among the younger generation.

The organization of the committee will consist of the secretariat, which will be in charge of overall management of the committee, and several subcommittees on which its 50 members will participate.

Sometime this month, Park is expected to announce a presidential decree to officially launch the preparatory committee. Members will start work in April, the Blue House said.

Meanwhile, as the presidential office has been busy hashing out committee details, concerns have grown over the waning role of the Ministry of Unification. The ministry has been criticized for its passivity in policy making and blindly following Park’s stance on North Korean affairs.

Many political observers believe that if Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae is not selected as one of two vice chairmen on the preparation committee, he could lose his reputation as a leader in inter-Korean affairs in South Korea. “To reflect the intentions of the presidential committee to plan policies effectively, one of the two vice chairmen of the committee should be the unification minister,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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