Seoul, Moon accepts resignation of Minister for Unification

Minister Kim Yen-chul submits his resignation after escalation of threats and the bombing of the inter-Korean relations office in Kaesong. Seoul's difficult role as mediator between Pyongyang and Washington, but also between China and the USA.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - President Moon Jae-in accepted the resignation of Kim Unified Minister Kim Yeon-chul this morning. Kim asked to leave after North Korea blew up the North-South liaison office in Kaesong and after heavy threats towards Seoul and Washington.

Kim was appointed minister in April last year, just as relations between the North and the United States were beginning to run aground. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with US President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019, but failed to obtain the lifting or suspension of international sanctions imposed because of his country's nuclear and missile programs. Washington set North Korean disarmament as a precondition and this has not occurred.

Meanwhile, in addition to the bombing of Kaesong, the North has sworn that it will suspend all communications between both governments and the military, also abandoning an agreement signed in 2018 to reduce conventional threats. This means that from now on skirmishes, small clashes and (sometimes) killings on land and sea borders are possible.

This has resulted in the ratcheting of tension in the South, with a corresponding dip in popularity for Moon, who had made détente policy with the North one of the pillars of his government.

The opposition has often criticized him for being too optimistic. Several groups of North Korean refugees, linked to the opposition, continued to provoke the North with the launch of air balloons containing critical flyers of Kim Jong-un's regime and leadership. The latest threats against the South in recent days appear to be motivated by these flyers. Seoul has often blocked the launch of balloons, but has always said that it cannot block them entirely because the authors exercise their right of freedom of expression.

In the North Korean crisis, the Moon Jae-in government has found itself mediating between the North, the US and Beijing. Many analysts maintain that Kim Jong-un wants guarantees of survival in order to dialogue and that his regime uses threats to force opponents to compromise. But there are also analysts who attribute the responsibility for Pyongyang's "harshening" towards the US to China and that it is an attempt by Beijing to force Washington to dialogue with China itself.