S. Korean FM beleaguered following contentious remarks

18:38, July 26, 2010      

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South Korea's top diplomat came under a barrage of criticism Monday after his barbed remarks directed at left-leaning youths made headlines.

Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan reportedly said on Saturday that young South Korean progressives can "go live in North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea)" if they are disgruntled with Seoul's hard-line policies toward Pyongyang.

"Why do those young people laud fighting for democracy and toppling dictatorships while they never utter a word about the North Korean regime?" Yu was quoted as saying by local media.

"If they like North Korea so much, they should just go live under Kim Jong-il," the minister reportedly said, referring to the DPRK leader. Yu was attending the ASEAN regional forum in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, and the comments were made during a background session with reporters.

After some local media outlets attributed them to the minister, the controversial remarks drew strong criticism from the opposition camp here, prompting the main opposition Democratic Party to demand Yu's resignation.

The Democrats, describing the remarks as "shocking" and " extreme," called for Yu's apologies and urged the public to vote for them to judge what they call is "failed diplomacy" in dealing with the recent sinking of a South Korean warship. Local by-elections are slated for July 28.

Foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun responded to the criticism. "There was no political motivation behind the remarks, and we express regret over possible misunderstandings, if there was any," Kim told reporters in a press briefing.

Seoul and Pyongyang remain technically at war following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with a truce, not a formal peace treaty. Inter-Korean relations got sour as President Lee Myung-bak, who took office two years ago, reversed a decade of liberal policies toward the northern neighbor by his predecessors.

Source: Xinhua


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