Pyongyang fills a long-vacant post

Joong Ang Daily
Lee Young-jong and Ser Myo-ja

As relations between the two Koreas warm, North Korea filled a key post that had been empty since August with a veteran diplomat, intelligence sources in Seoul said yesterday.

Kim Yang-gon is now director of the unification front of the Worker’s Party, a position roughly equivalent to South Korea’s unification minister.

“Kim was appointed to the post last month, shortly after inter-Korean relations were restored [in February],” a senior intelligence official said. “We assessed that North Korea was realigning its South Korea policy makers.”

Kim, 69, had been the councilor of the National Defense Commission, headed by Kim Jong-il. The Workers’ Party had left the unification front director post empty since Rim Tong-ok died in August of last year.

Since the 1980s, Kim Yang-gon has served in various key foreign affairs posts, including vice director and director of the international department of the party. Sources said Kim Jong-il wanted someone with international affairs ability because inter-Korean relations depend upon the six-nation nuclear talks and U.S.-North Korea relations.

Kim Yang-gon is also one of Kim Jong-il’s closest aides. After Workers’ Party Secretary Hwang Jang-yop defected to the South in 1997, Hyon Jun-guk was fired as the party’s international department director. Kim Jong-il appointed Kim, and he has accompanied the North Korean leader on many important meetings with foreign visitors. Kim also accompanied Kim Jong-il during rare trips to China and Russia. “We will look forward to appointments to other empty posts, such as the secretary of the Unification Front for the party and the chairman of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland,” the intelligence source said.

The two posts to be filled were left vacant after Kim Yong-sun died in a 2003 traffic accident. They are both key North Korea organs that make policy with regard to South Korea.


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