Go to contents

New nominations for National Security Office

Posted May. 25, 2017 07:18,   

Updated May. 25, 2017 07:33


South Korean President Moon Jae-in has named Lee Sang-chul, a professor of security at Sungshin Women’s University, as the first vice chief of the National Security Office (NSO) and Kim Ki-jung, president of the Graduate School of Public Administration of Yonsei University, as the second vice chief. Lee is an expert in North Korean issues as he dealt with them while serving 20 years in the military. Kim, who designed foreign policies for Moon, will be promoted from chief of subcommittee on foreign and security affairs of the advisory committee to Moon. Amid worries over nominations of Chung Ui-yong as head of the NSO and Kang Kyung-hwa as Foreign Minister for they might lack professional experiences in the field of security and bilateral diplomatic engagement with neighboring countries such as the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, it has been requested a lot that the new first and second vice chiefs of the NSO should be able to support them.

However, the first and second chiefs of the NSO also seem to keep flexible attitude to North Korea, putting their priorities on talks with the isolated regime. It is not quite certain whether Lee, who will also serve as executive secretary of the National Security Council, is capable of designing strategies for national security and leading defense reform as his expertise is more related to talks with North Korea and defense budget management in time of peace. Kim, whose roles will be similar to what had been assigned to senior secretary to the president for foreign affairs and national security of the former administration, has called for a nuclear freeze instead of a nuclear disarmament as a condition to resume talks with Pyongyang. Ultimately, peaceful coexistence should be achieved through resumption of dialogue and exchange. However, North Korea has launched two missiles since Moon’s inauguration, escalating nuclear and missile threats. It is worrisome that South Korea gives a wrong signal to North Korea.

Prime Minister-nominee Lee Nak-yeon said Wednesday during a hearing for his nomination that there would be no talks with North Korea unless North Korea changes its attitude. As Lee said, Moon’s administration should show a coherent position to make North Korea do not misunderstand. However, Moon Jung-in, President Moon’s special advisor on unification, foreign affairs and national security, has made provocative remarks in multiple interviews. For example, Moon mentioned West Sea Special Zone for Peace and Cooperation, which sparked a controversy over neutralization of Northern Limit Line after former President Roh Moo-hyun agreed on it during the summit between South Korea and North Korea on October 4, 2007. Moon even went further to say that a nuclear freeze, not a nuclear disarmament, is enough to review temporary halt of military drills between South Korea and the U.S.

President Moon had a meeting with his special envoys to the U.S., China and Japan Wednesday and received their briefings. It was a timely decision to send special envoys to neighboring countries in order to revive the needed momentum in diplomacy. President Moon should put more efforts in coming up with solutions to make North Korea abandon its nuclear ambition and solidify peace in the long run and refrain from making his nominations or policies that could put a wedge in international cooperation. What will the international community think of South Korea’s UN representatives if the new government remains silent on North Korea unlike the former government that called for sanctions on all forms of provocation by North Korea?