February 25, 2024

How unification ministry overhaul could entrench militaristic North Korea policy

Experts raise concerns about eliminating departments focused on inter-Korean peace, though some call changes necessary

The Yoon administration recently announced a sweeping plan to restructure South Korea’s unification ministry charged with overseeing ties with North Korea. The ministry will dismiss 81 staffers and eliminate entire divisions related to inter-Korean dialogue. A new budget proposal announced this week would gut funding for the ministry by 23%, the most in a decade.

The government has justified the changes as a necessary response to North Korea’s unwavering advancement of its nuclear and missile programs and its systematic abuse of its people’s human rights. President Yoon Suk-yeol has stressed that the ministry should not act like a “pro-North Korea aid” organization and has denounced the pro-engagement policies of its predecessors as “fake peace.”