FM reports to parliament over mishandled Japan pact
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan appeared before parliament Wednesday for questioning over the government's mishandling of an unprecedented military pact with Japan.
Kim's appearance came at the first foreign affairs committee meeting of the new National Assembly, indicating the urgency of justifying an intelligence-sharing agreement with the country's former colonial ruler.
A public uproar over the Cabinet's covert approval of the deal last month forced Seoul to abruptly postpone the accord's signing, which was scheduled for June 29. It also led to the resignation of a top presidential official and the replacement of a senior foreign ministry official who pursued the pact at the working level.
"I apologize once again for not doing enough to collect the views of the National Assembly and the public," Kim said in an oral report to the committee. "(The government) gave a rough explanation of the agreement to lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties, but it pains me that the prior explanation was insufficient."
The minister, who canceled part of his scheduled attendance at a regional conference in Cambodia to make the appearance, said the government did not intend to keep the deal a secret, as it informed the media and some civic groups of its plans starting early last year.
He also stressed the pact was necessary to gain more access to intelligence on North Korea amid persisting concerns about the communist state's military threats and provocations. It became especially pertinent after the North's missile test in April, he said.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) aims to ensure the protection of military intelligence shared between Korea and Japan.
Many Koreans still harbor deep resentment toward Japan, which ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45. (Yonhap)