South Korea's president Lee Myung bak has dismissed his unification minister Hyun In teak. Known as a hardliner, Hyun until his forced leaving of Lee's cabinet, was a mirror reflexion of the president's own position towards Kim Jong il.
Hyun's replacement Yu Wook ik signals a softening in Lee's stance, it seems.
Lee's 'Drang nach Norden' has failed, and his sabre rattling had provoked the exchange of live fire between South and North Korea during joint US ROK military exercises along the Northern Limit Line within a blush of North Korean territorial waters when the South's shells fell there in November 2010. The incident raised fears of reopening the frozen Korean War which awaits a peace treaty after 61 years.
Kim Jong il's marshalling the support of Russia and China in his willingness to rejoin six party talks, long in abeyance, in Beijing without preconditions, has put South Korea and the US into a position of quibblers by their rejection of North Korea's proposal as 'deja vu all over again' and hardly worth considering. Not only that the seize of South Korea tourist sites in Kumgangsan in North Korea has upset the business community on which Lee's Grand National Party depends.
Lee is a lame duck president, should we forget. The GNP is anxious to improve relations with the North. So under the pressure of international and national long fire on policy towards North Korea, Lee is forced to name a new unification minister.
The choice of Yu has significance: he served as Seoul's ambassador to Beijing. With news of his nomination, China has welcomed Lee's choice.
With Yu, will Lee inch more 'warmly' toward Kim Jong il?