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Seoul reviews North Korea policy as President Park Geun-hye removed

By Elizabeth Shim
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Seoul reviews North Korea policy as President Park Geun-hye removed
A South Korean woman holds a candle while gathering with others to celebrate after the court's ruling on the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South Korea on Friday. A snap election is expected to take place in May. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

March 10 (UPI) -- South Korea's unification ministry is maintaining "preparedness" and reviewing its North Korea policy after the removal of President Park Geun-hye from office.

Seoul's Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo held an executive meeting after the decision was announced Friday, to conduct a full review of inter-Korea relations, and to maintain policy consistency ahead of elections, Yonhap reported.

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Elections are scheduled to be held in 60 days.

"As much as our position pertaining to national security should remain unwavering regardless of the domestic political situation, we will continue to maintain steady preparedness in close cooperation with our diplomatic and security agencies with regards to North Korea," the statement from Seoul's unification ministry read.

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The removal of Park from office has invited speculation that domestic political changes may manifest themselves after the election.

The election of the leading liberal opposition candidate Moon Jae-in, for example, could bring shifts in Seoul's North Korea policy that could mean fewer sanctions and more dialogue with a belligerent regime that has shown no interest in giving up its nuclear weapons.

The unification ministry could be bracing itself for a political sea change in May, Yonhap reported.

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One ministry source who spoke to the South Korean news agency on the condition of anonymity said the ministry would evaluate the results of Park's unification and North Korea policies, and use the points as a guide to pursuing improved policy in the next administration.

Major decisions, including the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in February 2016, may come under review under the next administration, but the ministry does not expect sudden policy shifts, Yonhap's source said.

Moon, the leading presidential candidate of the progressive Minjoo Party of Korea, is well ahead of his rivals in the polls.

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The candidate has been critical of Park's tough approach to North Korea.

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