South Korean President Park Geun-hye asked her new national security adviser Monday to pay "full attention" to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula amid North Korea's ongoing threats and provocations.
Park made the request to Kim Kwan-jin during a weekly meeting with senior secretaries at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, one day after she named the defense minister to the post.
"Judging from the political situation in the region, North Korea's endless threats and provocations, and other various issues, the security situation is truly grave," Park said.
"I ask you to pay full attention to establishing the national security posture and its follow-up measures so that the people may be at ease."
Park's remarks come amid indications that North Korea is prepared to conduct its fourth nuclear test. The communist country has also carried out a series of provocations in recent weeks, firing artillery at a South Korean naval ship near the two countries' western sea border.
Kim, who will double as the defense minister until his successor takes office, acknowledged the gravity of the security situation, saying he would do his best to assist the president in line with her administrative philosophies.
Kim's appointment is part of a partial government reshuffle triggered by the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol on April 16. A number of senior government officials, including Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and then national security adviser Kim Jang-soo, have offered their resignations over the government's poor initial response to the sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing.
Park's pick for new prime minister, Ahn Dai-hee, withdrew his nomination last week amid allegations that he used his status as a former Supreme Court justice to make an excessive amount of money as a lawyer last year.
"My plan to completely change the running of state affairs and start afresh by naming a prime minister and reshuffling the Cabinet has been slightly delayed, but I am looking for the right person, demanded by the people, to carry out national reforms," Park said.
She also called on the senior secretaries to ensure there are no gaps in the running of state affairs and to "faithfully carry out the urgent tasks for administrative reform" until a new prime minister is named and appointed subject to parliamentary confirmation.
Citing last week's death of a diver who took part in search operations inside the sunken ferry, Park expressed her condolences to his family, saying the diver lost his life while doing his best to find the 16 people still missing in the disaster.
On the nationwide local elections scheduled for Wednesday, Park stressed that they should be "fair and clean, more than ever before." (Yonhap)