June. 7. 2022
Yoon appoints scholars and career diplomats sent to China, Japan and Russia
|From left to right, Hwang Joon-kook, Yun Duk-min, Chung Jae-ho and Chang Ho-jin, who have been appointed ambassadors of South Korea to the United Nations, Japan, China and China respectively. Russia. Courtesy of the President’s Office|
President appoints ambassadors to Japan, China and Russia, rounding out list of envoys in 4 key overseas posts
By Nam Hyun Woo
President Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday appointed South Korea’s ambassadors to Japan, China and Russia, supplementing the appointments of envoys in the country’s four major foreign postings.
According to the presidential office, Yoon appointed Yun Duk-min, Chung Jae-ho and Chang Ho-jin as ambassador plenipotentiary to Japan, China and Russia, respectively. Former lawmaker Cho Tae-yong had already been named ambassador to the United States on May 17.
They will officially work as ambassadors in these countries after presenting their credentials to the host governments.
Yun, appointed ambassador to Japan, is a full professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and served as chancellor of the Korean National Diplomatic Academy under the conservative Park Geun-hye administration.
He has been vocal in improving relations between South Korea and Japan, calling for a speedy resolution to a dispute between neighboring countries over Japan’s atrocities during World War II and a wartime compensation for korean workers during japan’s forced occupation of korea from 1910 to 1945. the conflict escalated following the 2018 south korean supreme court ruling against japanese companies and ordering them to compensate surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
During his speech at a Nikkei-hosted conference last month, Yun said, “The Yoon government won’t let Seoul-Tokyo relations get any worse.” At the time, he floated the idea of the South Korean government compensating victims and collecting money from Japanese companies by organizing a fund, adding that was his personal view.
“The ambassador’s most important task in Japan will be to resolve the strained relations between Seoul and Tokyo,” an official in the presidential office said. “If he is officially appointed, I expect him to focus on this case.”
Chung, appointed ambassador to China, is also an academic, professor of diplomacy at Seoul National University. He headed the university’s Institute of China Studies and is known as an expert on trilateral relations between South Korea, China and the United States.
In an interview last year with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, Chung said South Korea’s strategic ambiguity over the US-China rivalry was “on its last legs” and the country “shouldn’t have afraid to speak out on outstanding diplomatic issues”, if deemed necessary for national interests.
This is in line with Yoon’s diplomatic initiative for “one global pivot state” which envisions an increased role in promoting freedom, peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Chang, appointed Ambassador to Russia, is a full professor at Korea Maritime & Ocean University. He has spent most of his career as a diplomat, as presidential secretary for foreign policy under the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration and as a political adviser at the South Korean embassy in Russia.
|South Korea’s Ambassador to the United States, Cho Tae-yong, speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at the National Assembly in Seoul, January 18, 2021, file photo. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
With this latest announcement, Yoon finalized the appointments of top South Korean envoys to his four top diplomatic posts.
The president has opted to choose diplomatic experts as his top envoys, in contrast to his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who appointed politicians as ambassadors to those countries. Cho was a People Power Party lawmaker before taking the job, but is best known as a career diplomat.
This is interpreted as Yoon’s acknowledgment that the current diplomatic situation surrounding South Korea is serious, with the country entwined in US rivalries with China and Russia.
As Yoon directs the country’s diplomacy towards strengthening the alliance with the United States, pressure from China and Russia is expected to weigh on Seoul in terms of economic ties and cooperation on North Korean issues. To address the challenges arising from these dynamics, Yoon appears to have chosen experts with rich diplomatic experience, observers said.
Meanwhile, Hwang Joon-kook has been appointed South Korea’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Yoon also named Credit Finance Association Chairman Kim Joo-hyun as the new Chairman of the Financial Services Commission.