Secret negotiator for two inter-Korean summits tapped as spy chief

Angela Jung, May 10, 2017, 9:46 a.m.

Suh Hoon, who was named the new head of South Korea's intelligence agency Wednesday, is a well-known expert on North Korea who played a key role in helping arrange summit talks between the two Koreas in the 2000s.

His appointment as President Moon Jae-in's first spy chief is widely seen as aimed at backing up the new leader's bid to improve long-strained inter-Korean ties.

Suh, 63, made behind-the-scene contact with North Korea in preparing for the landmark summits held in June 2000 and October 2007, respectively. He is known as a South Korean who met with former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il the most.

He stayed in North Korea for two years in 1997 as a head of the field office of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), during which he learned how to negotiate with North Korean officials.

KEDO was set up to implement a 1994 deal with North Korea under which Pyongyang promised to freeze and then ultimately dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for energy-producing light water reactors and other concessions from the U.S. and other partners.

After returning from North Korea, Suh was involved in making secret contact with North Korea for summit talks in 2000 between then-President Kim Dae-jung and the North's Kim Jong-il.

During the administration of former President Roh Moo-hyun, Suh accompanied then-spy chief Kim Man-bok in visiting North Korea to prepare for a summit in 2007.

In 1980, Suh joined the country's spy agency and served as a deputy director of the National Intelligence Service in 2006-2008. Since then, he has worked as a visiting professor on North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University.

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