This was the first high-ranking admission of a scenario envisioning North Korea's absorption by South Korea. Speaking at the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Chung also revealed that South Korean authorities had plans for dealing with North Korea's political elite: "There is a large variety of North Korean elites, and the constituency of the Workers' Party is quite diverse, so we will classify them and deal with them," Chung said, cited by South Korea's JoonAng Daily.
Chung did his best to clarify his remarks on Thursday, noting that "our government is pursuing a peaceful reunification, not unification through absorption unilaterally by either the South or the North," Yonghap reported. He added that the Presidential Committee "has reviewed various road maps, but it has determined that a peaceful reunification is the only alternative in ending the division and going forward [with the North] to a new future."
The 50-member Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation was launched by President Park Geun-hye last July as one of her administration's key policy initiatives. The Ministry of Unification, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other ministries and experts participate in the Presidential Committee, with President Park serving as the panel's Chair.
An official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Korea Herald Wednesday that the Unification Panel has been bogged down "by administrative work, including…contacts with more than 50 civilian experts and advisors." The official noted that creating a separate panel to study forceful unification would be "impossible," given its current lack of capacity.