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Unification nominee sees slim chance of NK denuclearization

Unification Minister nominee Cho Myoung-gyon said Thursday that he sees only a slim chance of North Korea giving up on its nuclear weapons program, but South Korea should still take bold and practical measures to induce it to take that course.

Speaking at his parliamentary confirmation hearing, the nominee also stressed that denuclearization is a prerequisite to the reinstatement of any inter-Korean business projects.

“North Korea’s nuclear issue is closely related to a matter of survival for our nation,” Cho said in front of a panel of lawmakers.

To bring about a change in the current standoff, “a bold and practical solution that involves all means is necessary,” he added.

Cho Myoung-gyon, the nominee for South Korea`s unification minister, speaks to lawmakers at his confirmation hearing on June 29, 2017. (Yonhap)
Cho Myoung-gyon, the nominee for South Korea`s unification minister, speaks to lawmakers at his confirmation hearing on June 29, 2017. (Yonhap)

Cho also underlined the Moon Jae-in administration’s two-track approach of dialogue and sanctions to explain its policy stance on the North.

“The administration will come up with measures that can counter Pyongyang’s provocations and threats while alleviating the inter-Korean tension and recover dialogue.”

“Cooperation with the international community will be also pursued.”

Regarding Kaesong industrial park, a now-closed inter-Korean factory complex in the North, Cho said the issue of the North’s denuclearization should come before such exchanges, despite his belief that the reopening of the complex should be actively pursued. The joint complex, which lies in the border city of Kaesong, was shut down in 2016 by the previous government following North Korea’s series of nuclear and missile tests.

“As North Korea’s nuclear issue is grave, (the reopening of the complex) should come after some progress has been made over the nuclear standoff,” he said.

The nominee also vowed to look into the possibility of establishing both official and non-official dialogue channels with Pyongyang and dispatching a special envoy to the North.

Cho was a former presidential secretary for late President Roh Moo-hyun. He played a key role in inter-Korean negotiations for the factory complex and its launch in 2004. He retired in 2008 after taking part in several inter-Korean negotiations at the Unification Ministry.

Parliamentary committee members also questioned Cho over a “deleted transcript” of the 2007 summit between President Roh and Pyongyang’s late strongman Kim Jong-il, which was speculated to contain Roh’s promise to relinquish the Northern Limit Line. He denied all allegations made against him.

Cho was indicted, but was later acquitted at the local and appeals court. He is currently awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Upon official appointment, I will make efforts to resolve the pain of the divided peninsula and prepare for the future of unification through a creative approach that reflects the current reality,” said Cho.

Cho’s appointment does not require parliamentary approval.

By Jung Min-kyung (