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Hong Seok-hyun as New Korean Ambassador to the U.S.

Posted December. 17, 2004 22:56,   


President Roh Moo-hun unofficially decided for Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo, to succeed current Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Han Seung-joo, who recently hinted at resignation.

A Cheong Wa Dae official said on December 16, “President Roh consolidated his plan to change the Korean ambassador to the U.S. in order to upgrade ROK-U.S. relations one step further and decided to appoint Chairman Hong, who is also chairman of the World Association of Newspapers, to the post.” Appointing the chairman of the newspaper agency as the Korean ambassador to the U.S. was an unprecedented selection.

Concerning this, Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Woo-sik said at a year-end meeting over dinner with Cheong Wa Dae correspondents, “The ROK-U.S. relations at the government level are becoming very friendly, but U.S. public opinion and the opinion of the intelligent society are not amicable. President Roh has been seeking a ‘big card,’ and it will be surprising if we announce it.”

Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo and the Korean Association of Newspapers, was elected chairman of the World Association of Newspapers, the first time for an Asian journalist, in May 2002 and re-elected in June 2004.

Ambassador Han already hinted at resignation in September due to a scandal raised by his failure to attend a diplomatic event hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and instead attending a party celebrating the publication of a book written by his wife.

Meanwhile, according to Chief Presidential Secretary Kim, President Roh plans to implement a partial Cabinet reshuffle of three to five departments starting January 2005, and Minister of Finance and Economy Lee Hun-jai, who is also deputy prime minister, will remain in office in accordance with a plan to make all efforts to revive the economy next year.

Chief Presidential Secretary Kim stated clearly that Deputy Prime Minister Lee would remain in office, saying “Deputy Prime Minister Lee is doing a good job, and the participatory government is recharged with all its efforts to end political strife this year and revive the economy next year. Cheong Wa Dae thinks that it is not desirable to change the jockey of a running horse.”

It has been known that President Roh will advise Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Woo-sik, chief secretaries, and advisors to stay in office and will adjust some functions of the president’s national policy office in order to enhance the prime minister’s authority.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com