Roh’s aide returns to unification

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Roh’s aide returns to unification


Cho Myoung-gyon, a veteran North Korea policymaker who accompanied the late President Roh Moo-hyun during his one-on-one talk with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2007, was nominated Tuesday to head the Ministry of Unification.

“President Moon Jae-in nominated four minister candidates,” said Park Soo-hyun, presidential spokesman. In addition to Cho, You Young-min, a software developer and a former head of POSCO Research Institute, was named to head the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. Kim Yung-rok, former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party, was tapped to become the new minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs.

Chung Hyun-back, a professor of history and women’s rights activist, was nominated to head the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

Cho passed the public servant exam in 1979 and started his career at the National Tax Service. He joined the Ministry of Unification in 1984 and devoted most of his career to North Korea policy. He served various key posts of the ministry and joined the Roh Blue House in 2006 as the unification, foreign and security policy secretary.

Cho has participated in both of the two inter-Korean summits. In 2000, he participated in the historic summit as a supporting staff member. He also accompanied Roh to Pyongyang in October 2007, when Roh had only a few months left in his presidency, for the second summit between the two Koreas. At the time, he attended Roh’s exclusive talk with Kim as a record keeper.

Moon was the presidential chief of staff at the time and also head of the inter-Korean summit arrangement team. Cho left the public service after the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration was launched in 2008.

During the presidential election in 2012, in which Moon competed against Park Geun-hye, the summit became the subject of a fierce controversy. The Park campaign claimed Roh had disavowed the Northern Limit Line, the de facto border in the Yellow Sea, in his conversation with Kim, and the allegation dealt a critical blow to Moon’s campaign.

An investigation by the prosecution also took place in 2013 after it was revealed that the original transcript of the summit has mysteriously vanished from the National Archives. Prosecutors concluded that Roh ordered Blue House aides to delete it and indicted Cho and Baek Jong-chun, former chief presidential secretary for unification, foreign and security policies. Moon was also investigated but prosecutors found no evidence that he was involved. The case is still ongoing. Cho was acquitted in the initial trial and the first appeal and is currently waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling. “He is an expert of inter-Korean talks and North Korea strategy,” Park said.

“He has an in-depth understanding in the new government’s policy toward the North and the pending inter-Korean issues.”

Cho will likely advance denuclearization of the peninsula and the creation of a new economic map, Park said.

Moon has largely recruited officials who worked in the Roh administration to arrange the 2007 summit. Suh Hoon, the new head of the National Intelligence Service, was involved in planning and arranging the 2000 and 2007 summits. Moon also named Chun Hae-sung, a veteran negotiator, as the vice minister of unification.

These appointments indicate Moon’s intention to engage North Korea. Inter-Korean relations rapidly deteriorated during the conservative presidencies in the South. “We didn’t artificially plan it,” a presidential aide said. “But if their experiences are well harmonized and bring about improvement in the inter-Korean relations, we can expect a good outcome.”

Of the 17 ministries, only two remain without chief nominees - the minister of health and welfare and the minister of trade, industry and energy. Moon also needs a minister for a new ministry for small and medium enterprises that he promised. His efforts to form his cabinet, however, progressed slowly as opposition parties have opposed most of Moon’s earlier nominees, including Kang Kyung-wha, a senior UN diplomat tapped to become the foreign minister. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and Deputy Prime Minister for Economy and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon were the only two cabinet members who were confirmed and formally appointed.

Later in the day, Moon also appointed three vice ministers. Kim Hyun Soo was promoted to become the agricultural vice minister and Lee In-ho was promoted to become the first vice minister of trade, industry and energy. Lee Sook-jin, a director of the Korean Foundation for Women, was named as the gender equality and family vice minister. Moon also re-appointed Ko Sam-seog as a member of the Communications Commission. The vice-minister-level position comes with a three-year tenure, and Ko completed his first term on Thursday.

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