Yoon Suk-yeol picks envoys to Japan, China, Russia, UN
International politics expert Yun Duk-min, former head of the state-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA) and professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, was named ambassador to Japan, according to Yoon's presidential office.
Yun, who specializes in Korea-Japan relations, North Korea issues and East Asia security, was a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (Ifans) at the KNDA for over 20 years. He served as KNDA's chancellor, a vice minister-level position, from 2013 to 2017 during the Park Geun-hye administration.
Yun helped Yoon with foreign policy during his presidential campaign. During the presidential transition period, he was a part a delegation that visited Tokyo in late April to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
He received a bachelors' degree in political science from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a masters' degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a doctorate in international politics from Keio University in Japan.
As Seoul's ambassador to Tokyo, Yun is expected to handle the delicate job of improving bilateral relations which have deteriorated over historical issues such as compensation for wartime forced laborers, as Washington pushes for closer trilateral cooperation with its East Asian allies.
Chung Jae-ho, a professor of international relations at Seoul National University (SNU) and director of SNU's Program on U.S.-China Relations, was named ambassador to China.
An expert on Chinese political economy, Chung authored numerous books on China. Chung received SNU's Best Researcher Award in 2009, the Korean Association for International Studies' Best Book Award in 2012 and the American Library Association's Choice Award in 2017.
Earlier in his career, he was an assistant professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and a visiting professor at Renmin University of China. He previously served as director of SNU's Institute for International Studies and Institute for China Studies.
A native of Busan, Chung earned his bachelors' degree in Korean language education from SNU, a masters' degree in history from Brown University and a doctorate in political science at the University of Michigan. He is a high school colleague of Yoon.
During the transition period, Chung was a member of a policy consultation group that visited the United States in April and has been a key foreign policy adviser on China policy and diplomatic strategy for the new administration.
Chang Ho-jin, a former ambassador to Cambodia and a professor of global studies at the Korea Maritime & Ocean University, was named ambassador to Russia.
After graduating SNU with a degree in diplomacy, Chang passed the foreign service exam in 1982. As a career diplomat, Chang served in various posts including political councilor at the Korean Embassy in Moscow. He is also well-versed in U.S. affairs and the North Korea nuclear issue and served as director-general of North American bureau. Chang was appointed ambassador to Cambodia in 2010.
He served as a presidential foreign affairs secretary in the Lee Myung-bak administration and as a foreign affairs aide to former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn in the Park Geun-hye administration.
Chang's appointment comes at a critical period considering Russia's war on Ukraine. He was also a member of Yoon's delegation to Japan last month.
Hwang Joon-kook, a career diplomat and expert on the North Korea nuclear issue, was named ambassador to the United Nations.
Hwang, a former ambassador to Britain, is well-versed in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy having served as Seoul's chief nuclear envoy and negotiator for the bilateral defense cost-sharing deal with Washington.
After passing the foreign service exam in 1982, Hwang served in Korea's embassies in Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United States and the UN headquarters.
He served as Seoul's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, which doubles as chief negotiator for the now defunct six-party talks to denuclearize Pyongyang. He also served as Seoul's negotiator for 9th Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on defense burden-sharing with Washington, which was signed in 2014. After his retirement in 2018, he was a visiting professor at Hallym University and Yonsei University's Graduate School of International Studies.
In 2009, Hwang led a government inspection team to North Korea to to discuss the purchase of unused nuclear fuel rods and toured the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Hwang worked as a fundraising manager for Yoon's presidential campaign. He also had a working relationship with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, serving as a deputy chief of mission and political affairs minister at the Korean Embassy in Washington when Han was ambassador.
Hwang earned his bachelors' degree in economics from Seoul National University and a masters' degree in public affairs from Princeton University.
One month into office, Yoon has filled the positions for envoys to the four major powers – China, Japan, Russia and the United States – as well as the United Nations. Yoon tapped former Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong, a lawmaker from the People Power Party (PPP), as his ambassador to Washington on May 17.
Instead of filling the ambassador posts of major countries with politicians who contributed to his presidential campaign or close allies, Yoon generally tapped career diplomats and scholars.
A presidential official told reporters, "Our government's principle in personnel appointments is to make efforts to find the best person and dispatch competent people to the right posts."
The appointments came as Yoon shapes his early foreign policy, after signaling he plans to strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance and improve frayed bilateral relations with Japan. He will also have to navigate Korea's position in unstable global affairs, dealing with rising Sino-U.S. rivalry, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]