SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korea's security chief and top diplomat cancelled or cut short their summer holidays Sunday (Aug 13), after criticism mounted over the timing of their vacation amid global fears over escalating military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Hwa, who began a six-day vacation Friday, will return to work Monday, earlier than scheduled, according to local news outlets.
The chief of the National Security Council Chung Eui Yong on Saturday informed reporters of his decision to forego his vacation, originally scheduled for this week.
The moves came after opposition parties harshly criticised the insensitivity and irresponsibility of Seoul's top officials when the world is worried about the possibility of a war on the peninsula.
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"A series of fiery threats from North Korea brought tension on the peninsula to a whole new level, yet the Moon Jae In administration remains aloof," Jun Hee Kyung, spokesperson of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, said in a statement Saturday.
Yang Soon Pil, vice-spokesman of the opposition People's Party, also weighed in.
"President Trump declared the US armed forces were 'locked and loaded', indicating imminent action against North Korea, but Foreign Minister Kang is still enjoying her holiday, while head of the NSC Chung Eui Yong made the decision to cancel his summer vacation only recently (Saturday)."
Military tensions heightened on the Korean Peninsula last week, with US President Donald Trump and the North Korea trading barbs. South Korea's point man on the North, Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyun, was on vacation while much of this happened, returning to work Thursday from a weeklong holiday.
On Wednesday, while Cho was gone, the North threatened to create "enveloping fire" around the US territory of Guam. The next day it unveiled a more detailed strike plan, saying it would fire four Hwasong-12 missiles.
The Korean Central News Agency said the regime is planning to finalise the plan for its leader Kim Jong Un to approve in mid-August, just hours after President Trump said last week the North would be met with "fire and fury" if its threats continue.
Kim Young Woo of the minor opposition Bareun Party, who chairs the parliament's defense committee, slammed Cho, saying in a statement that "the sense of urgency is missing to resolve imminent diplomatic and national security threats".
President Moon, who enjoyed a week-long vacation from July 30, has stressed that ministers and high-ranking officials should use their vacation days in order to create a workplace culture in which workers can take more holidays.
Cheong Wa Dae hit back against the criticism, attacking opposition parties for fearmongering and saying that security is always the No. 1 priority of the Seoul government.