SKorean foreign minister in scandal offers to quit |

SKorean foreign minister in scandal offers to quit

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan has offered to resign amid accusations of nepotism, an official said Saturday.

Yu made his offer to President Lee Myung-bak after he came under fire when his ministry hired his daughter for midlevel post handling free trade affairs.

Yu’s daughter, who had worked as a contractor at the foreign ministry’s trade bureau for three years before quitting last year, was rejected along with seven other applicants when she applied for a contract job in July. Then, earlier this week, she was hired for the same post after another hiring process – which Yu’s daughter and five others applied.

Yu had been under mounting public fire over the controversial hiring, even after he offered a public apology and removed his daughter from the job on Friday.

Presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung confirmed that Lee was informed of the resignation offer, but she did not say whether the president will accept it.

Yu said he was “sorry to have caused trouble to the public,” over his daughter’s hiring, his spokesman said, according to Yonhap news agency. The foreign ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Lee, who has ordered a thorough audit into possible rigging of the hiring process, will likely accept the resignation offer, Yonhap said, citing an unidentified presidential official.

The resignation offer comes at a crucial time for South Korea as it is preparing to host the summit of the Group of 20 rich and developing economies in November.

It also comes amid diplomatic efforts mainly by China and North Korea to restart stalled talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. China has suggested a compromise among the six countries involved in the nuclear disarmament talks so that negotiations – which North Korea walked away last year – can get back on track.

In Washington, South Korea’s nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac met with Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and others Friday to discuss North Korea.

South Korea and the United States plan to stage joint anti-submarine exercises from Sunday through Thursday off the Korean peninsula’s west coast to send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea.