South Korea names new unification minister to handle North Korea ties

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korean President Moon Jae In on Tuesday (June 13) nominated a veteran government official with long experience in handling ties with North Korea as his new unification minister.

The nominee, Cho Myoung Gyon, has deep understanding of the new administration's North Korea policy and the issues facing the two Koreas, the presidential office said.

Moon wants to engage North Korea in dialogue and revive stalled exchanges with the reclusive country including economic cooperation projects, saying sanctions alone have failed to rein in Pyongyang's advancing weapons programme.

But the overture for warmer ties has been complicated by the defiant pursuit of nuclear and missile development by North Korea, which has conducted missile tests four times since Moon's election on May 10.

Cho's appointment does not need parliament's approval but he must attend a hearing and answer questions from lawmakers.

Cho spent much of his career at the unification ministry and was involved in preparing the 2007 inter-Korean summit between leaders of the two Koreas.

Cho also oversaw South Korea's economic cooperation projects with the North, including a jointly-run industrial complex in Kaesong, just north of the border.

Seoul's former conservative government closed the industrial zone in February 2016 after North Korea tested a long-range rocket in defiance of international sanctions.

Under third-generation leader Kim Jong Un, the North has been conducting missile tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the mainland United States.