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South Korean Foreign Minister Resigns - 2004-01-15

South Korea's foreign minister has resigned, just a day after the country's president vowed to replace some officials tasked with foreign relations. The resignation of Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yoon Young-kwan on Thursday follows complaints that he did not properly supervise ministry officials who had criticized the president's foreign policy.

On Wednesday, President Roh Moo-hyun told reporters there would be changes at the ministry. Mr. Roh says some officials of the ministry have expressed their opposition to his foreign policy with insulting comments.

A senior presidential adviser on Thursday said the Foreign Ministry had failed to implement the government's foreign policy direction. He also criticized ministry officials for leaking classified information about the government's diplomacy toward the United States.

Officials at the presidential Blue House say the president accepted Mr. Yoon's resignation. There is no immediate word on a replacement.

According to South Korean news media, there is a battle going on between two factions in the government - one supporting close ties with the United States, the other desiring a more independent foreign policy.

The shake-up at the Foreign Ministry comes as South Korea is working with China, Japan, the United States and Russia to arrange a second round of talks with North Korea about ending its nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Roh had promised to continue his predecessor's policy of improving relations with Pyongyang. However, because of the 15-month dispute over the North's weapons programs, which violate several international accords, Mr. Roh has been more cautious about developing relations with the North.