The South Korean Unification Minister has resigned from his post as relations with the North continue to deteriorate.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday accepted Kim Yeon-chul’s resignation, instigated by North Korea’s attack that destroyed a liaison office on the border of the two countries. North Korean first department director Kim Yo Jong, sister to President Kim Jong Un, last week had threatened to destroy the base after calling it “useless.”
It is not immediately clear who Moon will select for the position. Many have called for Moon to overhaul his foreign policy in the face of the attack.
North Korea has recently grown increasingly frustrated by a leaflet campaign led by defectors in the South as well as the lack of effort by President Moon’s government to stop the campaign. The North has mobilized massive protests in past weeks to condemn the refugees and their actions.
Kim’s military also announced plans to support a North Korean civilian campaign to fly anti-South Korean propaganda leaflets in areas near the land and sea border. Experts say that could potentially create security problems for the South.
Desperate to prevent tensions from getting out of control, the South has vowed to stop the activists and threatened to press charges against two North Korean brothers who have led the leaflet campaigns for years.
While Seoul has sometimes sent police to block the activists from leafleting during sensitive times, it had previously resisted North Korea’s calls to fully ban them, saying they were exercising their freedom of speech.
Reunification has remained a primary goal of Moon’s government, but some have criticized officials for being too optimistic about progress with North Korea. The government ran into credibility problems once it became clear Kim had no intent to voluntarily deal away the nukes he likely sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon previously told Seoul to drop “nonsensical” talk about denuclearization.
“The question is whether there will be a need to keep holding hands shaken in Singapore, as we see that there is nothing of factual improvement to be made in the DPRK-U.S. [Democratic People's Republic of Korea-U.S.] relations simply by maintaining personal relations between our supreme leadership and the U.S. president,” Ri was quoted as saying.
“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for [political] achievements without receiving any returns,” he added. “Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.