Tough Woman Plays Key Role in Inter-Korean Talks

      February 09, 2011 11:51

      Chung So-un

      A woman dressed in a red jacket and skirt was the focus of attention at preparatory military talks between the two Koreas in the truce village of Panmunjom on Tuesday. Chung So-un (40) is a Unification Ministry section chief in charge of inter-Korean negotiations, who was part of the South's delegation.

      Chung will be attending all high-level military talks between the two Koreas. She was also present at a meeting in Panmunjom in September to discuss the North's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan.

      Chung apparently became a prominent figure at the time due to her thorough arguments countering the stubborn denials of North Korean military officers while smoothly leading the talks. According to one National Intelligence Service official, North Korean representatives at the time demanded concrete evidence linking them to the sinking of the Cheonan, but Chung responded, "People who were seen near the scene of a crime need an alibi that exculpates them. Do you have an alibi?"

      Chung has a BA in English literature and a master's in administration from Seoul National University. She started working for the Unification Ministry in 1997 after passing the higher civil service exam. She attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and became the highest-ranking female South Korean official in charge of inter-Korean negotiations after heading the separated families department at the ministry.

      She also worked as an administrative official in the office of the presidential secretary for unification and was in charge of economic talks with the North. A colleague said. "Whenever inter-Korean talks take place, Chung dedicates herself to the talks and leaves her five-year-old son with her parents or in-laws for days at a time."

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