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[Profile] First insider tapped to become unification minister

Cho Myoung-gyon, the first Unification Ministry insider to be tapped to take its helm in its near 70-year history, boasts ample experience in negotiations with North Korea.

Until his retirement in 2008, he worked at the ministry for 28 years, taking up core posts including head of the Kaesong industrial park business support team, policy coordinator for the office of planning for the North Korean light water reactor project and director-general for inter-Korean exchange and cooperation. 

Cho Myoung-gyon, the first Unification Ministry insider to be tapped (Yonhap)
Cho Myoung-gyon, the first Unification Ministry insider to be tapped (Yonhap)

In 2007, he was involved in a landmark summit between then President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a presidential secretary on unification, foreign and security policy. Incumbent President Moon Jae-in served as Roh’s chief of staff and in other top positions.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed hopes for the nominee’s role in executing Moon’s pledges to achieve denuclearization and peace on the peninsula, and forge an inter-Korean economic zone.

Though his name had been floated, Tuesday’s nomination caught many ministry officials by surprise because Cho had since his retirement shunned the public spotlight, especially after his court battle over a transcript of the 2007 summit.

Two months before the 2012 presidential election, a then-ruling conservative party lawmaker alleged Roh promised to relinquish the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, during the talks. The bombshell remarks took a toll on Moon, who was then the opposition’s presidential front-runner and eventually lost the election.

The prosecution nonetheless pressed ahead to indict Cho and then-Roh’s national security adviser Baek Jong-chun on charges that they conspired to delete the transcript. Local and appeals courts have acquitted them and the case is currently pending at the Supreme Court.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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