Official says foreign minister offers to resign over nepotism scandal

Friday, September 3, 2010

SKorean foreign minister in scandal offers to quit

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan offered to resign Saturday amid accusations of nepotism over the hiring of his daughter for a ministry job, officials said.

Yu made his offer to President Lee Myung-bak after coming under mounting public fire, even after issuing a public apology and removing his daughter from the job on Friday.

Yu’s daughter, who had worked as a contractor at the ministry’s trade bureau for three years before quitting last year, was rejected along with seven other applicants when she applied for a midlevel job in July. Then, this past week, she was hired for the same post after another hiring process in which she and five others applied.

Presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung confirmed that Lee was informed of Yu’s resignation offer, but did not say whether the president would accept it.

“I decided to resign because I am sorry to the public for causing trouble,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun quoted as Yu as saying.

Lee, who has ordered a thorough investigation into the possible rigging of the hiring process, will likely accept the resignation offer, the Yonhap news agency said, citing an unidentified presidential official.

The resignation offer comes at a crucial time for South Korea as it prepares to host a summit of the Group of 20 rich and developing economies in November.

It also comes amid diplomatic efforts to restart stalled talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. China has suggested a compromise among the six countries involved in the nuclear disarmament talks so that negotiations — which North Korea walked away from last year — can get back on track.

In Washington, South Korean nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac met with Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and others on Friday to discuss North Korea.

South Korea and the United States have delayed joint anti-submarine exercises off the Korean peninsula’s west coast due an approaching typhoon, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It said no new date has been set for the drills, which had been scheduled to run from Sunday through Thursday.

North Korea has strongly objected to the drills, claiming they are a preparation for an invasion.

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