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Friday, October 27, 2006

South Korean intelligence chief offers to resign

SEOUL - The head of South Korea's main intelligence agency has offered to resign, the agency said Friday, making him the third minister-level official to offer to quit since North Korea's first-ever nuclear test this month.

Kim Seung-kyu, head of the National Intelligence Service, offered to resign to give President Roh Moo-hyun a free hand in reorganizing his team of security ministers, the agency said.

On Tuesday, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, in charge of reconciliation with North Korea, also offered his resignation, saying he wanted to take responsibility for the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test because he was the main minister in charge of North Korean affairs. The country's defense minister offered to quit on Monday.

Kim, the intelligence chief, expressed his intention to step down in a meeting with President Roh on Thursday "in order not to give burden to the president in building a new lineup of foreign and security" ministers, an agency spokesman said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing policy, didn't give any more details.

The presidential office also confirmed Kim's resignation offer.

Yonhap news agency said Roh planned to accept Kim's resignation. Local media have also widely reported that Roh planned to accept the two other resignations.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is also resigning because he was recently elected to replace U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Yonhap said Roh plans to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle early next week to replace the resigning ministers.

Roh's main security adviser, Song Min-soon, who served as the country's main envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue, is strongly tipped to be the next foreign minister, it said.

The series of resignations, especially that of Unification Minister Lee, who has been a staunch supporter of Seoul's engagement policy toward the North, has raised questions of whether South Korea will alter that policy, which has come under strong criticism since the North's nuclear test.

But the presidential office has said it remains committed for now to the engagement policy.
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