Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (Yonhap)
Outgoing Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul voiced hope on Friday that his departure will pave the way for a "pause" in the recent escalation of inter-Korean tensions caused by North Korea's shocking demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office and bellicose rhetoric.
In his farewell speech, Kim also stressed that "hatred can't be defeated by hatred" in his appeal for the two Koreas to stop the downward spiral of their relations and return to a reconciliatory mode.
Earlier in the day, President Moon Jae-in accepted the resignation that Kim tendered the previous day to take responsibility over deteriorating cross-border relations.
"There are many scars to heal in the relations between the two Koreas. In this situation, adding a new scar would make the effort to heal them more difficult," Kim, who had led the ministry since April last year, said.
"We should stop here. I strongly hope that my departure will create an opportunity for a brief pause," he added.
His resignation came as tensions between the two Koreas escalated due to the North's blowing up of the inter-Korean liaison office in its border town of Kaesong this week and its threat to redeploy troops to border areas in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent from the South.
In his speech, he also said that he would take "all the criticism and reprobation with me."
"I hope my resignation brings a new positive mood to the relations and provide us with the opportunity to reflect back on the status and role of the unification ministry," he said.
Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho is expected to serve as acting minister for the time being.
Lee In-young, a four-term lawmaker who once served as the ruling Democratic Party's floor leader, and Im Jong-seok, former chief of staff to Moon, are among those floated in local media as possible candidates for the next minister.
Speculation has risen that Moon may be pushing for a shake-up of his diplomatic and national security team to replace some key figures such as National Security Office Chief Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon. (Yonhap)