South Korea's leader replaces point man on North Korea

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2015 2:47 AM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's president replaced her point man on North Korea on Tuesday in a reshuffle that involved three other top officials.

Hong Yong Pyo, the presidential secretary for unification, was nominated to replace Ryoo Kihl-jae as the country's new unification minister in charge of relations with Pyongyang, senior presidential official Yoon Doo-hyun said in a televised briefing.

Park also replaced two other ministers and the head of the country's financial regulator. The four designates are required to undergo National Assembly hearings, but their appointments don't require approval from the legislature.

Analysts say Hong's nomination won't likely lead to a major shift in South Korea's policy on North Korea but will still be seen as an attempt to make a new start in relations with North Korea.

Hong, who was a professor at a Seoul university before joining the Blue House staff after Park took office in 2013, has been influential in shaping Park's inter-Korean policies, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.

Hong's appointment as unification minister would allow the Park government to maintain continuity in North Korea policies while still exploring ways to improve relations with Pyongyang, Koh said.

The two Koreas recently floated the idea of holding high-level talks but the prospect is dimming as the countries remain at odds over preconditions.