South Korea's point man on North Korea resigns to return to ruling party

South Korea's point man on North Korea submitted his resignation Friday to President Roh Moo-hyun, the presidential office said, to return to the country's troubled ruling party. The resignation comes after an aide to Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said Tuesday that Chung planned to step down soon to prepare to take a position in Roh's Uri Party, which has seen its popularity decline in recent months.

Chung, 52, was chairman of the ruling Uri Party before taking his current post, where he spearheaded South Korean government's efforts to foster political and economic exchanges with its communist rival. "I plan to devote myself to helping the party regain public confidence," Chung told Yonhap news agency in an interview.

The ruling party has seen its popularity wane amid soaring property prices and corruption scandals, including one surrounding a failed government-funded oil project in Russia and another over a multimillion-dollar (euro) project to develop an island off South Korea's west coast.

The telegenic news anchor-turned-politican has been considered one of the most likely candidates for the 2007 presidential election to succeed Roh, who swept into power on a wave of support by younger voters questioning key assumptions about modern South Korea, including its close ties to the United States, reports the AP. I.L.

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