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Special affairs minister nominee vows to play role in inter-Korean ties

All Headlines 15:56 August 23, 2010

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- Lee Jae-oh, President Lee Myung-bak's pick for special affairs minister, said Monday that he will be ready to play an "unofficial" role in improving relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, but expressed his opposition to "abnormal" inter-Korean contact.

Speaking before the National Assembly in his confirmation hearing, minister nominee Lee also said that he is willing to support Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Moon-su in the next presidential race, if Kim declares his candidacy.

"If I receive any special mission on inter-Korean relations, I may have to take on such responsibilities," said the 65-year-old, who is regarded as one of President Lee's most trusted aides.

"But the basic principle for inter-Korean relations is that they should be pursued in a normal way. If appointed to the Cabinet, I won't engage in tasks that are not specified in the laws," the nominee said at the hearing, when asked whether he is willing to serve as a special envoy to resolve inter-Korean affairs in tough situations.

Nominee Lee, who became a four-term lawmaker after winning a parliamentary by-election in a Seoul district July 28, was designated by President Lee as his new special affairs minister in the Aug. 8 Cabinet reshuffle.

The former chief of Lee Myung-bak's presidential campaign team in 2007 is widely expected to have strong influence on the president's success in the latter half of his five-year term, as well as in the ruling camp's bid for the 2012 presidency.

In this regard, the nominee praised Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim as an outspoken conservative politician.

"I have worked with Gov. Kim for a long time. (He is) very excellent," the nominee said.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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