Jang Ho-jin, the current first vice minister of foreign affairs [Photo by Yonhap]
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is expected to appoint Jang Ho-jin, the current first vice minister of foreign affairs, as the new head of the National Security Office on Thursday.
President Yoon is also considering Kim Hong-gyun, the current ambassador to Germany, as a strong candidate to succeed Jang. Ambassador Kim is reportedly preparing for a return to Seoul for his appointment.
A presidential office official indicated the possibility of announcing personnel changes in the diplomatic and security sectors in the afternoon of Thursday.
Amid Foreign Minister Park Jin’s upcoming departure in April next year due to his intention to run in the general elections and Second Vice Minister Oh Young-joo’s appointment as the head of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, there were expectations that the appointment of Jang as the head of the National Security Office might be delayed to prevent vacancies in the Foreign Ministry’s leadership. However, there is a growing sense that the announcement of appointments might be expedited.
Jang is a seasoned career diplomat well-versed in South Korea’s key diplomatic tasks related to the U.S., North Korea’s nuclear issues, and Russia. He served as vice-head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ North Korean Nuclear Diplomatic Planning Group, director of the North American Bureau, and secretary for foreign affairs at the Blue House. He was appointed as the first ambassador to Russia under the Yoon administration in June of last year, and was appointed first vice minister of foreign affairs last April.
Ambassador Kim Hong-gyun, who is expected to be the first vice minister in charge of bilateral diplomacy, served as an assistant to the minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, director of the ROK-U.S. Security Cooperation, director of the Peace and Diplomacy Planning Group, assistant minister, and then head of the Korean Peninsula Peace Negotiation team on North Korean nuclear issues. After working in Yoon’s camp during the presidential election, he served as an expert member of the foreign affairs and security division of the transition committee and was appointed ambassador to Germany in October of last year.
As for the second vice minister position overseeing economic and multilateral diplomacy, among the candidates are reportedly Kang In-seon, Presidential Office Secretary for Overseas Public Relations, and Son Ji-ae, an invited professor at the Graduate School of International Studies at Ewha Womans University. However, no final decision has been reached regarding the appointment from the current list of 30 to 40 candidates.
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