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Friday, June 19, 2020, 12:55
ROK's unification minister steps down over rising tensions with DPRK
By Reuters
Friday, June 19, 2020, 12:55 By Reuters

ROK Unification minister Kim Yeon-chul speaks during a briefing at the Seoul Foreign Correspondent's club in Seoul on June 4, 2019. (ED JONES / AFP)

SEOUL - Moon Jae-in, the president of the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Friday accepted the resignation of the minister responsible for relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as tensions with Pyongyang rise over the activities of defectors in the ROK and stalled diplomacy.

ROK's Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with the DPRK, offered on Wednesday to step down, making himself accountable for the worsening ties.

Pyongyang has also taken issue over defectors in the the ROK sending propaganda leaflets into the DPRK

After seeing a boost in favourability over his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Moon’s approval rating fell to 55 percent, the lowest level in about three months, driven by worries over the DPRK, according to a Gallup Korea poll released on Friday.

READ MORE: ROK's nuclear envoy visits US amid flaring tension with DPRK

Pyongyang has snubbed Seoul’s calls for engagement as efforts to restart inter-Korean economic projects stalled due to international sanctions designed to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

Pyongyang has also taken issue over defectors in the the ROK sending propaganda leaflets into the DPRK.

Citing Seoul's failure to stop the defectors, the DPRK this week blew up the joint liaison office on its side of the border, declared an end to dialogue with the ROK and threatened military action.

ROK Unification Ministry spokeswoman Cho Hye-sil told a briefing on Friday that an emigre group planning to send hundreds of bottles stuffed with rice, medicine and medical face masks to the DPRK by throwing them into the sea near the border on Sunday, had been asked to abandon its plan.

ALSO READ: DPRK foreign minister lashes out at US policy toward Pyongyang

She warned that authorities would stop the group, and others like it, from carrying out such plans, and would seek to impose penalties for violations of a law governing inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation.

After a flurry of barbed statements earlier this week, the DPRK officials did not issue direct criticism of the ROK for a second day in a row on Friday.

But state media kept up steady stream of reports on the DPRK's “exploding with anger” at its southern neighbor.

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