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S Korea names new unification minister

(Xinhua)

08:24, August 31, 2011

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Tuesday named former ambassador to China Yu Woo-ik as new unification minister tasked with overseeing relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Yu Woo-ik, President Lee Myung-bak's confidant and Lee's chief of staff, will replace Hyun In-taek in a minor Cabinet shakeup.

Hyun, who has come under increasing criticism for his hardline stance against the DPRK, will serve as a presidential advisor for unification, Lee's office Cheong Wa Dae said.

The appointment of the new unification minister signals the government's efforts to seek better relations with the estranged northern neighbor, observers said. Both the ruling and opposition parties have blamed Hyun for his heavy-handed dealing with Pyongyang.

The president also replaced three other Cabinet ministers prior to the September plenary parliamentary session in order to prepare for general elections next year.

Choe Kwang-sik, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, was appointed as the culture minister; Rim Che-min, chief of the Prime Minister's Office, was nominated as the health minister; and ruling party lawmaker Kim Kum-lae as the gender equality minister.

The new ministerial nominees now face parliamentary hearings for confirmation.

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