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Gov’t replaces envoys to China, Japan, Russia

Mar 05,2019
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From left: Jang Ha-sung, Nam Gwan-pyo, Lee Sok-bae
The Moon Jae-in government has tapped Jang Ha-sung, a former Blue House policy chief, as the new South Korean ambassador to China, and will also replace the top envoys to Japan and Russia, according to sources on Monday.

Jang, the former presidential policy chief who crafted President Moon’s income-led growth policy, will be nominated as the new top diplomat to China. He would replace Noh Young-min, a former three-term lawmaker who was appointed as Moon’s chief of staff in January. A finance professor at Korea University Business School, Jang has long called for chaebol reform and economic democratization.

Nam Gwan-pyo, a former second deputy director for National Security Office, was expected to be tapped as the ambassador to Japan during a sensitive period for diplomatic relations between the two countries. He would replace Ambassador Lee Su-hoon, a Northeast Asia expert.

Nam, a career diplomat, previously served as ambassador to Sweden and Hungary and was recently replaced as National Security Office deputy director by former Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong. He has also served as a first secretary at the Korean Embassy in Japan earlier in his career.

Lee Sok-bae, the Korean consul general in Vladivostok, is expected to replace Woo Yoon-keun as the ambassador to Russia.

Woo has been mired in a bribery controversy amid allegations that he received kickbacks from a real estate developer in return for favors when he was a lawmaker of the then main opposition Democratic Party in 2009. Lee has spent the past two decades generally in Russia-related posts. Jang’s appointment as the Korean envoy to Beijing may bring some backlash from the opposition over his lack of experience in diplomacy.

Beijing is a key partner for Seoul both economically and amid diplomatic efforts for denuclearization and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Jang spent time as an exchange professor at Renmin University in China and Fudan University, and as a consultant for the China Securities Regulatory Commission for eight years. He is said to have an understanding of the region and an expansive network in China. The spring reshuffle comes as Moon enters the second half of his presidency. Ambassadors usually spend an average of three years in their oversea posts.

Seoul has to request approval of the new ambassador appointees from the respective countries’ governments in a diplomatic protocol known as agrement, a process that takes over a month on average.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]