Yoon fills 9 more positions including foreign minister
People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Park Jin, a fourth-term lawmaker considered an expert on Korea-U.S. relations, was named foreign minister by Yoon, who detailed his second round of Cabinet picks in a press conference at the transition committee's office in Tongui-dong, central Seoul.
Park passed the foreign service exam in 1977, became a diplomat and joined politics in 2001. He is known for extensive experience in parliamentary diplomacy. Earlier this month, he led a delegation on a weeklong trip to Washington to meet with White House and State Department officials and experts at think tanks.
PPP Rep. Kwon Young-se, a fourth-term lawmaker who served as Korean ambassador to China during the Park Geun-hye administration, was tapped as unification minister. Kwon, a former prosecutor, is close to Yoon and is vice chairman of his transition committee.
Yoon said Park "is recognized for his expertise and experience in foreign affairs and security and is recognized as a strategic expert on U.S. diplomacy." He said he is expected to make a "significant contribution to normalizing our diplomacy, which had fallen into a stalemate, and enable Korea to become a globally pivotal country that fulfills its responsibilities in solidarity with the international community."
On Kwon, Yoon pointed to his "moderate, pragmatic" approach and experience as ambassador and chairman of the National Assembly's intelligence committee.
"Based on his expertise and abundant experience in unification diplomacy, we determined that he is the right person to usher in an era of genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula by normalizing inter-Korean relations based on principles," he added.
Park, who is recovering from Covid-19 after his Washington trip, said in a statement that "foreign and security issues should not be approached through pursuing party interests," calling for a bipartisan strategy.
He said there are "numerous diplomatic tasks" for the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, including dealing with North Korean provocations, the U.S.-China conflict, Ukraine crisis, global supply chains, economic security, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.
When asked by reporters about his approach to inter-Korean relations, Kwon said he would make "principles-based, practical and rational decisions."
Yoon named Han Dong-hoon, vice president of the Judicial Research & Training Institute and a senior prosecutor, justice minister. Han worked under Yoon on a probe of a corruption scandal in 2016 that led to the impeachment and ouster of former President Park Geun-hye. He also led investigations of corruption cases against former President Lee Myung-bak and more recently on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family.
Kim In-chul, former president of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), was tapped as education minister, doubling as deputy prime minister for social affairs. He will lead the administration's educational reforms.
Han Wha-jin, a founding member of the Korea Environment Institute, was named environment minister. She is an expert in air pollution and climate change and served as presidential secretary for the environment in the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Lee Sang-min, former vice chairman of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and a former judge, was picked as minister of the interior and safety.
Cho Seung-hwan, former president of the Korea Institute of Marine Science and Technology Promotion, was selected as minister of oceans and fisheries.
PPP Rep. Lee Young, a female entrepreneur who founded an IT security company, was tapped as minister of SMEs and startups. She has a doctorate in cryptography from KAIST and served as a vice chair of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
Kim Dae-ki, a former presidential chief of staff for policy in the Lee Myung-bak administration, was named as Yoon's first chief of staff. He has held various posts at the Finance Ministry and served in the Roh Moo-hyun administration as a secretary for economic policies.
Yoon described Kim as an "economic expert who also has a flair for political affairs."
Some picks such as Han Dong-hoon as justice minister came as a surprise. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office last week cleared charges against Han, who was accused of colluding with a TV reporter to attack pro-government figures for corruption. He was accused of being involved in the alleged blackmailing of a jailed businessman to expose irregularities of pro-government figures including liberal pundit Rhyu Si-min, a former health minister, in 2020.
Yoon said on Han, "He has held key positions in the Ministry of Justice and prosecution for 20 years, and has accumulated expertise in investigations, trials, the prosecution system and judicial administration."
Defended his choice of justice minister, Yoon told reporters, "I determined that he is the best person to oversee judicial administration" adding it "certainly was not a surprising personnel appointment."
Yoon last Sunday named eight Cabinet nominees including ministers of finance, trade, transportation and defense.
There are just two minister posts remaining — agriculture and labor.
The minister picks were predominately men in their 60s who graduated from Seoul National University.
The average age of the 16 minister nominees is 59.7 years, and just three candidates were women.
There were seven Seoul National University graduates. In terms of regions, four nominees are from Seoul, followed by three from South Gyeongsang and two from Daegu.
Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the presidential transition team, indicated Tuesday that his opinions were not being properly being reflected in the Cabinet appointment process, an indication of discord with Yoon.
"I wanted to give advice especially on the areas in which I have expertise, but there was no such process," Ahn told reporters after a visit to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
His remarks come after Rep. Lee Tae-kyu of the minor People's Party and Ahn's closest aide, stepped down from the transition committee, saying that none of their stances were reflected in the minister nominations. Lee was in charge of behind-the-scenes negotiations for an electoral alliance between Yoon and Ahn during the campaign.
"It seems that there were many difficulties during the presidential election, the process of unifying candidates and during the transition committee," said Ahn. "I tried to convince him [not to quit], but he had made up his mind."
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]