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Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-shik to Be Appointed Ambassador to U.S.

Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-shik to Be Appointed Ambassador to U.S.

Posted September. 01, 2005 07:09,   


On August 31, the would-be successor of the former ambassador to the U.S., Hong Seok-hyun, who resigned, was disclosed to be Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-shik.

The Korean government is said to be asking the U.S. government to agree to the appointment of Lee as ambassador. Given the fact that the agreement process takes a month on average, the full handover of the ambassador job will take place as early as late September.

The current deputy foreign minister worked as the Korean ambassadors to Israel and Britain after becoming a foreign ministry official by passing the seventh foreign affairs state examination. In last December when president Roh was warmly welcomed as a national guest in Britain, his work as the ambassador was said to be very impressive. Lee’s second son Lee Seong-hwan, who is a foreign service agent, is in charge of English interpretation for President Roh

The appointee Lee Tae-shik worked as a secretary at the Korean Embassy in the U.S. for three years in the early 1980s and as a deputy director general of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) for two years in New York.

That is why some are concerned that his career experience in the U.S. is not adequate, even though he is the first career diplomat appointee in 10 years after former ambassador Park Kun-woo, who was appointed in 1995 when he worked as deputy foreign minister.

According to foreign ministry officials, however, he is familiar with pending issues in Korea-U.S. relations as he was involved in Korea-U.S. economic issues as director-general of the Trade Bureau within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and took charge of North Korean nuclear issues as the deputy director general of KEDO and as deputy foreign minister.

The presidential office seems to feel that the career diplomat is well positioned to deal with important issues such as the North Korean nuclear program and nuclear arms reduction, and the relocation of U.S. forces in Korea.

It is expected that the appointment will strengthen South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon’s leadership role if Lee, his junior diplomat, ends up working as the South Korean Ambassador to the U.S.

Some forecast that there will be promotions and personnel shifts in the foreign ministry following the appointment of Lee’s successor.

On the candidate list for the position of deputy foreign minister is spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung, who competed with the current second deputy minister, Yoo Myeong-hwan, over the new ministerial post established by the newly adopted plural deputy minister system in last July.

Jong-Koo Yoon jkmas@donga.com