World News

South Korea draws hard line on North Korean aid, no longer a ‘support department’ for dictatorship

The government of South Korea is warning that its Unification Ministry is no longer interested in giving blanket support to its northern neighbors.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced the shift in posture toward North Korea Sunday after appointing a conservative head to the ministry, according to a report from Yonhap News Agency.

“So far, the unification ministry has operated as if it were a support department for North Korea, and that shouldn’t be the case anymore,” Yoon said, according to senior presidential press secretary Kim Eun-hye. 

“Now, it’s time for the unification ministry to change.”

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South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol waves to joint meeting of the US Congress

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol waves as he arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

South Korea’s Unification Ministry is tasked with maintaining contact with its northern neighbor since the peninsula was split in two following the Korean War.

The ministry has throughout its history pivoted in different directions depending on warming and cooling of relations with North Korea.

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Korean Peninsula Demilitarized Zone

A United Nations Command soldier, left, and a South Korean soldier stand near North Korea’s Panmon Hall at Panmunjom in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Image)

Tensions between the North and South have frayed during President Biden’s administration amid increased U.S.-South Korea military exercises and weapon testing in North Korea.

The hermit kingdom has also returned to an aggressively anti-American posture in solidarity with its allies, Russia and China.

“From now on, the Unification Ministry must carry out its proper responsibilities in accordance with the constitutional principles that unification must be based on liberal democratic order,” Yoon reportedly told staff. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, poses for a group photo with fighter pilots who made the demonstration flight at the opening of an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Monday. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, poses for a group photo with fighter pilots who made a demonstration flight at the opening of an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP)

 

“The unification that we pursue must be one in which all the people from the South and the North enjoy better lives and are treated better as human beings,” he added.

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