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[Newsmaker] Yun faces nuke crisis, uncertainties

Foreign Minister nominee Yun Byung-se is the architect of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s policy of reengaging North Korea and is tasked to save it from derailment amid escalating tension following the belligerent neighbor’s new nuclear brinkmanship.

The 60-year-old former career diplomat was named the nation’s foreign affairs chief to assist the incoming leader in coping with regional uncertainties such as revived nationalism in Japan and the ever-complicated rivalry between the U.S. and China.

He also faces a tough job of restoring stability and morale to the Foreign Ministry staff disgruntled with her decision to deprive it of the authority of trade negotiations. 
Foreign minister nominee Yun Byung-se. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Foreign minister nominee Yun Byung-se. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Known for diligence and professional expertise, Yun has been deemed a soft option since becoming a member of Park’s policy planning team in July. Their ties came to light when he joined the National Future Institute, her think tank established in December 2010.

Yun also boasts hands-on experience spanning nearly three decades. In 2007, he took part in the landmark inter-Korean summit between former President Roh Moo-hyun and late dictator Kim Jong-il.

He is one of the primary authors of the president-in-waiting’s road map for a peaceful Northeast Asia, “trustpolitik” and national reunification. The package touches on everything from North Korea’s denuclearization and Eurasia-wide cooperation to economic diplomacy and climate efforts.

“We plan to make security and dialogue work in tandem, like the wheels on a wagon,” Yun told a radio interview in November.

“That means that we will handle North Korean policy and foreign security and reunification policies with an integrated, balanced perspective, and that we will put stress on cross-border ties and international relations at the same time.”

In the aftermath of North Korea’s third nuclear test, however, the centerpiece of the much-touted policy is coming under threat even before its launch. To find a solution, he will have to put his head together with Cheong Wa Dae’s national security chief Kim Jang-soo and Defense Minister nominee Kim Byung-kwan.

Another major issue is Park’s plan to transfer the Foreign Ministry’s trade division to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, which will be expanded and renamed the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy. Many diplomats, lawmakers and experts have voiced opposition due to concerns over undermined administrative efficiency and synergy between political and economic diplomacy.

Yun served the Roh government from 2004-07 as a chief of policy coordination at the National Security Council, deputy foreign minister, and senior presidential secretary on foreign and security policy.

He entered the Foreign Ministry in 1976 and took up key posts such as director of the North America division and minister at the Korean Embassy in Washington.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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