Presidential security aide tapped as South Korea’s foreign minister

By NNN-Bernama,

Seoul : President Lee Myung-bak has appointed his top
security aide as foreign minister, Lee’s office Cheong Wa Dae said Friday, amid growing calls for an overhaul of the ministry accused of nepotism and elitism, Yonhap News Agency reported.

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Kim Sung-hwan, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for foreign affairs and diplomacy, is expected to take up the post later this month after going through the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing, the schedule of which has not been fixed yet.

Kim’s appointment, however, does not require parliamentary approval, Yonhap reported.

Kim, 57, is qualified for the job as he is well familiar with the Lee administration’s diplomatic policy direction through more than two years of service as a senior secretary at Cheong Wa Dae, officials said.

The career diplomat, known for his soft leadership, is also expected to push for the reform of the ministry reeling from the resignation of minister Yu Myung-hwan in early September, they added.

Yu, who was retained in the Aug 8 Cabinet reshuffle as Seoul prepares to host a G-20 summit in November, stepped down after his ministry was found to have given special favours to his daughter to hire her for a working-level

The ministry has since come under growing pressure to overhaul the way it recruits and assigns diplomats.

Some presidential aides reportedly recommended an outside figure without career experience at the ministry, like Seoul’s ambassador to Beijing, Yu Woo-ik, for foreign minister.

The president’s choice of Kim is seen as aimed at maintaining stability on the diplomatic team, while pursuing a gradual reform of the ministry.

A native of Seoul, the foreign minister-designate majored in economics at Seoul National University. He entered the ministry in 1977 after passing a state exam.

He briefly worked as vice foreign minister in early 2008 after serving as Seoul’s ambassador to Austria for two years. He was Seoul’s top envoy to Uzbekistan from 2002-2005.

He previously spent much of his career dealing with North American and European affairs.

Kim’s appointment came shortly after the National Assembly approved the nomination of Kim Hwang-sik as prime minister.

Kim Sung-hwan will retain his current job at Cheong Wa Dae until he takes office as foreign minister and his replacement is selected, according to sources.

According to Yonhap candidates to become his successor include Kim Sook, a diplomat who is now in charge of overseas intelligence at the state spy agency, and Kim Tae-hyo, presidential secretary for national security strategy.