Nov. 27 (UPI) -- South Korea's defense minister apologized immediately after making a remark about women's attire before South Korean military officers at Panmunjom.
Song Young-moo, who was visiting the Joint Security Area following a tense standoff between North and South after the defection of a North Korean soldier, issued the apology when his comment generated controversy, News 1 reported.
South Korea's top defense official said, "the shorter mini-skirts are, the better," to a group of South Korean soldiers.
In his statement of apology, Song said he made the comment as a joke to lighten the mood at the suspenseful border, where guards may be on edge following a shooting that violated a U.N. cease-fire agreement.
"I am deeply sorry for using an inappropriate expression after arriving later than scheduled to the [Joint Security Area] Battalion cafeteria, after visiting the JSA operation area," Song stated. "Because I was sorry about keeping soldiers waiting, I made the remark with the intention of keeping my statements short."
In what may have been an attempt to draw laughs with a pun on the word "short," originally a reference to his decision to keep his speech brief, Song may have used the metaphor of "short skirts" to make his point.
"It's no fun [for those gathered] to listen to speeches while dining, but like mini-skirts, speeches before meals, the shorter the better," Song had said, according to South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh.
Song also irritated South Korean progressives last week, when he said it was "a relief" former national security chief Kim Kwan-jin was released after he was arrested for his alleged involvement in manipulating public opinion through online comments, during his term in the former President Lee Myung-bak administration.
Song said South Korean soldiers have maintained operations "successfully" following the dramatic defection of the soldier with the surname Oh to the South.
The defector is convalescing at a South Korean hospital.