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Rival political parties diverge on Yoon-Biden summit

Democratic Party repeats calls for firing security advisor to president

By Kim Arin

Published : April 30, 2023 - 18:14

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol toasts with US President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House in Washington on Wednesday. (Yonhap-Joint Press Corps) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol toasts with US President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House in Washington on Wednesday. (Yonhap-Joint Press Corps)

South Korean rival political parties have diverged on their assessments of the gains and losses of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s summit with US President Joe Biden. While political opponents at home have blasted Yoon for “returning from Washington empty-handed,” the ruling party has defended Yoon for upgrading the security alliance to a new level.

Park Jie-won, who headed South Korea’s National Intelligence Service during the Moon Jae-in administration, told The Korea Herald on Sunday that Yoon’s principal deputy national director Kim Tae-hyo should step down to take responsibility for the “summit failures.”

“I think the deputy national adviser (Kim) needs to go, looking at how things turned out at the South Korea-US summit,” said Park, who now sits as the major opposition Democratic Party of Korea’s standing adviser.

He criticized the Yoon adviser’s description of the Nuclear Consultative Group aimed at addressing nuclear contingencies as a “de facto nuclear sharing” deal, which Edgard Kagan, a US National Security Council senior director, denied.

Park, citing his source in the US, added that Yoon was supposed to end his rendition from “American Pie” in a duet with Biden. “This was planned ahead and the two presidents were supposed to sing the last bit together. That’s what I heard,” he said.

Rep. Youn Kun-young, who served as the state affairs monitoring director at Moon’s Cheong Wa Dae, told The Korea Herald on Sunday that Yoon was “prioritizing alliance over South Korean national interest.”

“It seems that to President Yoon, as well as those around him, alliance (with the US) seems to take precedence over national interest when it should be the other way around,” he said.

“The president has made alliance his main objective while forsaking our own interests like the economy.”

Also in a statement Sunday, Democratic Party’s chief spokesperson Rep. Kwon Chil-seung that “South Koreans are dismayed by the president not having said a word about the spying problem.”

“The president isn’t simply returning from the summit empty-handed -- it is almost like a stab in the back to the people.”

The former NIS chief Park previously said in a phone call with The Korea Herald that Yoon should issue “at least some degree of complaint” over the latest allegations that the US eavesdropped on top South Korean officials.

The Democratic Party similarly called for firing Yoon officials following the president’s summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last month.

The ruling People Power Party says Yoon’s six-day visit to the US has been an opportunity for “commemorating the 70th anniversary of the alliance” and “sharing visions for a shared future.”

People Power Party chief spokesperson Rep. Kang Min-kuk told reporters Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong criticizing the commitments made in Washington “goes on to show how threatening North Korea finds the results of the summit.”

Speaking to The Korea Herald, the party’s Rep. Ha Tae-keung on the parliamentary foreign affairs committee said the Nuclear Consultative Group was “significant as South Korea’s first nuclear consultation with the US.”

“The Yoon administration is the first in history to do this,” he said.