U.S. picks new ambassador

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U.S. picks new ambassador


Sung Kim

Sung Kim, the United States envoy for six-party nuclear talks, has been tapped by the Obama administration to be the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea, sources in Washington said.

Assuming the confirmation process progresses as normal, the new ambassador would take office in August, according to the sources. Kim’s nomination needs the approval of the U.S. Senate. Kim would replace Kathleen Stephens.

Diplomatic officials in Seoul had a positive response toward the choice, especially because Kim is a Korean-American, lived in Korea until the seventh grade and served at the State Department as director of Korean affairs from 2006 to 2008.

Although Kim is the United States’ representative at the long-stalled nuclear talks, he was designated the envoy in 2008 after North Korea abandoned the discussions and has not had a chance to participate in the negotiations.

However, Kim’s experience as the U.S. State Department’s top Korea expert would help him in his new position in addition to dealing with North Korean issues. He visited the North around 10 times while working at the State Department. Seoul officials said yesterday that the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea would grow “even tighter” with Kim’s appointment. Expectations were also high over the weekend that Kim would continue the public diplomacy that Stephens used during her time in office in Seoul and raise the image of the U.S. in Korea.

The Obama administration had considered Jim Leach, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa, but sources in Washington said Leach turned it down.

If Kim becomes Stephens’ successor, he would be the first ethnic Korean to be in the position since diplomatic ties began in 1882.

Kim migrated to the U.S. with his family in the mid-1970s when his father left his job as a public servant. Kim’s father was the South Korean ambassador to Japan before he moved his family to the U.S. He had also been kidnapped by North Koreans and taken across the border after boarding a Korean National Airlines flight in 1958. KNA was South Korea’s first commercial cargo and passenger air carrier. Kim’s father was released 20 days later across the border through Panmunjom.

Sung Kim was in seventh grade when he moved to the U.S. and acquired U.S. citizenship in 1980. Kim is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Kim spent time as a public prosecutor in Los Angeles before deciding to become a diplomat. Kim has worked in Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Kim has unique family ties in South Korea.

His uncle is Yim Taik-keun, former announcer and former executive director of Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Yim is also the father of Yim Jae-beom, a well-known singer in South Korea who starred in MBC’s hit program, “Survival: I am a Singer.”

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]

임택근 “성김, 한미 양국 위해 일 잘할 것”

‘가수 임재범과는 사촌’

차기 주한 미국대사로 내정된 것으로 알려진 성 김(51) 6자회담 특사와 아나운서계의 전설 임택근(79) 아나운서의 인연이 화제다.

성 김 특사는 임 아나운서의 손위 누나의 둘째 아들이다. 동시에 임 아나운서의 아들인 가수 임재범과는 사촌 간이다.

1951년 중앙방송국 아나운서로 데뷔한 임 아나운서는 1950-1960년대를 풍미한 전설적인 스타 아나운서다. 특히 스포츠 중계로 이름을 날린 그는 MBC 전무를 끝으로 은퇴했다.

임 아나운서는 5일 연합뉴스와 전화통화에서 "(성 김은) 효자이자 수재이며 잘 자란 청년"이라며 "한미 양국을 위해 일을 잘할 것"이라고 기대했다.

그는 "아직 한국정부의 아그레망(주재국 임명동의)과 미국 상원의 인준절차 등이 남아 있어 공식적으로 코멘트하기가 어렵다. 어젯밤에도 누님과 통화를 했는데 아무래도 아직 임명이 된 것이 아니니 조심스럽다"며 처음에는 통화를 회피했지만 이내 조카에 대한 신뢰를 조심스럽게 내비쳤다.

성 김 특사는 부친을 따라 중학교 1학년 때 미국으로 이민, 1980년 미국 시민권을 취득한 한국계 미국인이다. 그가 주한미대사로 부임할 경우 1882년 한국과 미국이 수교한 이후 129년 만에 처음으로 한국계 주한미대사가 탄생하게 된다.

임 아나운서는 "(성 김은) 워낙 어려서 미국으로 갔는데 누님이 아이들 교육을 잘 시켜서 그 집안 아이들이 다 잘 자랐다"며 "(성 김도) 검사를 하다가 외교관이 된 수재"라고 전했다.

펜실베이니아대를 졸업한 후 로스쿨을 거쳐 검사생활을 하다 직업 외교관으로 변신한 성 김은 2003년 주한미대사관에서도 근무한 경험이 있다.

임 아나운서는 "우리 집안 식구 얘기라 뭣하지만 몇년 전 주한 미국 대사관에 1등 서기관으로 근무하러 왔을 때 보니까 정말 머리가 샤프하고 잘 자란 청년이다. 우리 누님에게도 지극한 효자"라며 "한미 수교 129년 만에 나오는 첫 한국계 주한미대사인 만큼 양국의 발전을 위해 많은 도움이 될 것"이라고 기대했다.

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