As Unification Minister, Pres. Moon nominates official with history of reconciliation

Posted on : 2017-06-14 14:58 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Cho Myung-gyun plans to work for reopening of Kaesong Industrial Complex if officially appointed
Cho Myung-kyun
Cho Myung-kyun

President Moon Jae-in’s nomination of former Blue House Senior Secretary to the President for Unification, Foreign, and Security Policies Cho Myung-gyun for Minister of Unification on June 12 sent a strong signal that he plans to restore the ministry’s standing and functions after they were undermined by the Lee Myung-bak (2008-13) and Park Geun-hye (2013-16) administrations.

If officially appointed as minister after his confirmation hearing, the 60-year-old Cho, who has a career history as a government official, would be the second former ministry staffer to hold that post, after former Minister Jeong Se-hyun. Cho signaled his proactive attitude in a meeting with reporters at the Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue in Seoul’s Samcheong neighborhood soon after his nomination.

“The specifics needs to be carefully examined, but the Kaesong Industrial Complex must be reopened. We may also consider a summit if it is necessary in the process of thawing inter-Korean relations,” he said.

Born in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, in 1957, Cho attended Dongsung High School and graduated in statistics from Sungkyunkwan University before earning a master’s degree in administration at Seoul National University. After entering public service with the 23rd administrative service exam, he served in key positions with the Ministry of Unification, including head of its exchange and cooperation bureau, deputy director for policy coordination for its light-water reactor planning team, and head of the Kaesong Industrial Complex project support team. He joined the Blue House during the Roh Moo-hyun administration 2006, which extended his duties to include security policy.

Cho participated in two inter-Korean summits under the Roh (2008-13) and Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) administrations, and was present for a separate meeting between Roh and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during their summit on Oct. 4, 2007.

“He’s quiet and thoughtful, with a soft leadership style where he does a good job looking after the people around him,” said a foreign affairs and security expert who worked with Cho during the Roh administration.

A key figure in pushing policies of reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea, Cho stepped back from government service after the Lee administration took office. A devout Catholic, he dedicated himself to religious activity before suddenly emerging at the center of controversy during the 2012 presidential election with the release of summit transcript records in connection with claims about the Northern Limit Line. Cho ended up indicted and tried on charges of destroying materials related to the summit. He was acquitted in the first and second trials and is currently awaiting a final judgment from the Supreme Court.

Explaining its selection of Cho, the Blue House described him as a “policy expert with ample practical experience and a strong understanding of the new administration’s North Korea policy and inter-Korean issues.”

“We expect him to do a capable job carrying out important Ministry of Unification tasks, including setting charting a basic course for inter-Korean relations under the new administration,” it said.

By Jung In-hwan, staff reporter

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