Yoon says security situation is tough amid talk of possible N.K. nuclear test

SEOUL-- President Yoon Suk-yeol said Wednesday that South Korea is facing a tough security situation amid reports North Korea could undertake a nuclear test and instructed aides to monitor the situation closely.

Yoon made the remark while presiding over his first meeting with senior presidential secretaries, a day after he took office amid heightened tensions in the wake of a series of North Korean missile launches in recent weeks.

"The security situation is tough," he said. "Foreign countries are worried, and there's talk of a resumption of nuclear tests, so I think you will have to closely monitor the effects not only on security but also on other areas of state affairs in case such a situation arises and make preparations."

North Korea has shown signs of preparing for a seventh nuclear test as early as this month as U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Seoul next week for his first summit with Yoon.

Yoon also outlined other challenges facing the country, such as rising inflation and raw material prices, and fiscal health. He described the country's economy as being in an "extremely difficult" state, with the biggest problem being inflation.

He said high wheat prices due to the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices are contributing to stagflation and threatening the country's industrial competitiveness.

"We will have to look hard at the causes of rising inflation and the measures needed to curb them," he said.

Yoon also called for quickly compensating small merchants hit by COVID-19 business restrictions, noting it was a campaign promise.

He acknowledged the country's fiscal health has deteriorated but still called for full preparations to pass the needed budget through the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Yoon again emphasized the importance of collectively defending and promoting freedom, a word he used 35 times during his inauguration address, noting that he did not mention "unity" because the politics of a democracy is in itself a process of uniting the nation.

Local news outlets had earlier pointed to the absence of the word from the speech.

The president urged his secretaries to communicate frequently through meetings and visits, saying the reason he relocated the presidential office out of Cheong Wa Dae was so that they could be closer physically.

"The soles of our shoes have to be worn down," he said. "Only then will our work run normally."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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