The South Korean unification minister on Wednesday offered to step down, a day after North Korea blew up a symbolic liaison office near the border, local media reported.
Kim Yeon-chul, according to Yonhap News Agency, said he took responsibility for the worsening of inter-Korean relations.
Seoul’s unification minister oversees engagement with North Korea. Kim was appointed to the position last April, and had been tasked to restart talks, which had stalled in 2018. The inter-Korean liaison office was built the same year.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, particularly prompted by South’s failure to stop propaganda leaflets from being sent over the border. In response, the North expressed its anger, and cut all communication with the South.
Kim said he felt “sorry for failing to meet demands and expectations of the South Korean people who wish for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.”
Meanwhile, South Korea condemned the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for her “rude and senseless” criticism of President Moon Jae-in.
Warning that it won’t tolerate the North’s “unreasonable words and acts anymore,” presidential spokesman Yoon Do-han said: “It is a senseless act to disparage [Moon’s speech earlier this week] in a very rude tone without understanding its purpose at all.”
Kim Yo-jong, who threatened Seoul with a military attack last week, criticized Moon’s remarks on inter-Korean relations on the 20th anniversary of the historic June 15 joint declaration. Leaders of the two Koreas had met for the first time in 55 years since the division of Korea, in Pyongyang.
Reaffirming his commitment to 2018 summit deals with Kim Jong-un, Moon had said: “[We] can’t let the promise of peace on the Korean peninsula, which I and chairman Kim Jong-un made in front of 80 million Koreans, revert.”
Technically, the two countries remain at war after Korean War hostilities ended with a cease-fire in 1953 but a peace treaty was never signed.