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Unification minister nominee’s social media posts to be bone of contention at confirmation hearing

Unification minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul is expected to focus on taking back or explaining his past remarks on social media at the parliamentary confirmation hearing scheduled for March 26.

Kim stepped down as chief of the state-run think tank the Korea Institute for National Unification on Friday following his nomination as the minister in charge of inter-Korean affairs, replacing Cho Myoung-gyon.


Since then Kim has been preparing for his confirmation hearing at the Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue.

He was briefed Wednesday by different departments concerning their work and pending issues in inter-Korean relations.

The former professor of unification studies at Inje University frequently criticized politicians and public policy on social media, often using crude language, before joining the research center in April last year.

When President Moon Jae-in, then leader of the main opposition party, visited the Marine Corps in March 2015 wearing a military uniform on the fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship, Kim wrote on Facebook that Moon was “putting on a show.”

In July 2015, Kim, who was opposed to the deployment in South Korea of the US anti-missile system THAAD, wrote: “Looking at the government’s reckless decision and the Democratic Party’s response, which is hard to understand, I thought ‘this country is going down.’”

Main opposition Liberty Korea Party floor leader Rep. Na Kyung-won demanded that Moon withdraw the nomination because Kim is opposed to THAAD and has criticized sanctions against North Korea.

Kim has also said on multiple occasions that the sinking of the Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, may not have been the work of North Koreans, and that Seoul’s sanctions against Pyongyang -- known as the “May 24 measures,” taken in response to the North’s torpedo attack on the Cheonan -- must be lifted irrespective of whether the North apologizes.

In December 2016, Kim wrote about former President Park Geun-hye, saying, “Quite a few people must have noticed her obsession that is close to mental illness, below-average intellectual ability and autism which makes conversations impossible.”

In October 2015, he cursed at a professor who approved of having state-authored history textbooks.

In March the same year, he wrote that he had turned down a request to moderate a debate, saying, “Most events talking about dialogue between progressives and conservatives are a fraud.”

In 2016 he insulted the Democratic Party’s then-leaders, referring to Choo Mi-ae as “an infected zombie” and to Kim Jong-in as “a piece of gum that former President Park Geun-hye chewed and discarded.”

In 2017, when there was talk that former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon might run for president, Kim called Ban “a leader who is after his own success.”

Kim also criticized former President Kim Young-sam’s North Korea policy, saying it merely followed public opinion and that the Democratic Party was watching public opinion with regard to the THAAD deployment. “People are ambivalent,” he added.

Upon reports about his past social media remarks, Kim temporarily shut down his Facebook account on Tuesday, citing fears of hacking, and apologized for “some inappropriate expressions.”

Kim said in a statement that he had expressed his thoughts about politicians as a man on the street.

“As I am fully aware that the language of an ordinary academic and a government official must be different, I will be careful about my words and actions in the future,” he said.

By Kim So-hyun (