Lee lets go of top security assistant
A senior presidential aide resigned Thursday in the middle of the ongoing intra-government blame game over a military intelligence pact with Japan.
With the departure of Kim Tae-hyo, the senior presidential secretary for national security strategy, Cheong Wa Dae is seemingly looking to put an end to the controversy.
The main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) is pressing the presidential office and the ruling Saenuri Party to sack the prime minister and other ministers as well as demanding an apology from President Lee Myung-bak.
“I understand that Kim expressed his intent to step down to the President in person this morning,” Park Jeong-ha, a presidential spokesman, told reporters.
Park hinted that there will be no Cabinet reshuffle regarding the dispute over the envisioned pact. “The prime minister has already made a public apology for this, but I believe this is not something the prime minister or Cabinet ministers should take responsibility for,” the spokesman said.
The DUP renewed its call for the dismissal of Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and the ministers of foreign affairs and trade, and national defense.
Chairman Park Jie-won urged Lee to scrap the General Security of Military Intelligence Agreement (GSOMIA), saying the pact would only worsen Korea’s ties with China.
“Beijing is alarmed as Seoul and Tokyo pushed for the signing of the deal. It believes the pact is aimed at encircling China,” he said.
The DUP is set to fan anti-Japanese sentiment here and vows to grill Cabinet ministers when a National Assembly sessions opens on July 16.
The liberal party had called for reshuffling of the entire foreign policy and security lineup members, including Kim who flexed his muscles on major foreign policy initiatives.
Kim, 45, is widely known as the man who has spearheaded the drive to sign the controversial pact with Japan, despite protests from the public.
He was once called a member of the inner circle at the presidential office especially after his position remained intact even after the news that he, along with two other government officials, had secret contact with North Korean officials in Beijing last year.
He was known to have proposed inter-Korean summit talks to the North, which were rejected.
North Korea disclosed this about a month later, threatening to make their conversations public.
This came as a surprise because the Lee government has consistently taken a hard line stance toward North Korea and showed no signs of engagement unless the North came up with necessary measures for denuclearization.
The secret contacts in Beijing spurred the allegation that the government had sought to politicize inter-Korean summits. Kim survived the unfavorable atmosphere and was even promoted to senior secretary early this year.