U.S. ambassador to Korea post still empty despite appointments
The post of U.S. ambassador to Korea is approaching one full year of vacancy.
The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of American ambassadors to some 40 countries on Saturday, which included the U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who was formerly the mayor of Chicago, and the U.S. Ambassador to France Denise Bauer, who was formerly ambassador to Belgium.
Korea, however, was not included. The last U.S. ambassador to Korea was Harry Harris, who left Korea in January. Robert Rapson was the deputy chief of mission in Korea until July, after which Christopher Del Corso filled his shoes.
The U.S. president first nominates the country's ambassadors, who are then approved by the Senate. In Korea’s case, a nomination is yet to take place.
The longest time for the position to ever be left vacant was around one and a half years, between the tenure of former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert and Ambassador Harris, whose appointment was approved by the Senate in June 2018.
The Senate approval over the weekend left Korea as the only East Asian country without the appointment of a U.S. ambassador. On Thursday, the Senate approved the appointment of Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, as the ambassador to China.
With the U.S. ambassadors to India and Australia also nominated in recent months, now all U.S. ambassadors to the other three nations in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — India, Japan and Australia — have been either nominated or appointed.
“It is our understanding that the U.S. government is trying its best to nominate the American ambassador to Korea as soon as possible,” a Foreign Ministry official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday.
Possibilities that either the U.S. Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim, former Commander of U.S. Forces Korea Vincent Brooks or the U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell could be nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Korea were once floated in media reports.
Some experts in Korea projected that the nomination may take place after the presidential election in March.
“Because we're in a situation where we're not sure what kind of government will come after the election in March next year, there is a possibility that the United States will watch the situation first, rather than rush to appoint the U.S. ambassador to Korea,” James Kim, a researcher at the Seoul-based think tank Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday.
BY PARK HYUN-JU, ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]