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[Newsmaker] Park’s new political aide faces challenges

Amid the worsening relationship between Cheong Wa Dae and parties over a controversial prime minister nominee, President Park Geun-hye’s new top political aide is drawing keen interest from both in and out of the political arena.

Cho Yoon-sun, former gender equality minister, was appointed the new senior presidential secretary for political affairs last week.

She was the first woman ever named to the top aide post. The 47-year-old was in the spotlight also because she was given the crucial task of resolving the deepening feud between the presidential office and political parties, at a critical time when Park is being dealt a serious blow over her failed prime minister nominations.

Cheong Wa Dae has been facing growing resistance not only from the main opposition party but also from the ruling Saenuri Party over Park’s nomination of Moon Chang-keuk as the new prime minister. The former journalist has been accused of expressing pro-Japanese historical views while delivering lectures at a church some years ago.
Cho Yoon-sun, senior presidential secretary for political affairs. (Yonhap)
Cho Yoon-sun, senior presidential secretary for political affairs. (Yonhap)

Cho has been regarded as one of President Park’s most trusted aides and also one of the most successful women in Korea.

She assisted Park during and after the presidential election in 2012. After Park took the office, Cho was named the minister in charge of gender equality and families.

Her job as the gender equality minister, however, received mixed reactions. Skeptics say she didn’t make any particular efforts in driving state policies to realize gender equality at home and work, and enhance the welfare of minority families. Others offer a moderate evaluation that she earned businesses’ attention in balancing work and life. She is said to have lured a considerable amount of financial contribution from big companies to help working mothers, citizens with a multicultural background and victims of sexual harassment.

Cho holds many “first woman” titles.

Born in 1966, Cho studied international relations at Seoul National University and passed the bar exam. Later, she earned an LLM degree at Columbia Law School in New York. Cho became the first female lawyer to be hired by Kim & Chang, the nation’s largest law firm.

At 40, she enjoyed an early success in the corporate world. In 2007, she was tapped as the vice chairwoman of the Seoul office of Citibank. But Cho turned to the politics, saying she was fascinated by how law-making can make difference in society. She earned a seat in the National Assembly in 2008 as a proportional representative.

In addition to her stellar career, Cho is also known as a woman of fortune and handsome appearance.

However, many say it was her exceptional communication talent that has captured the people, regardless of her age, gender and background.

She is known to have built an amicable relationship not only with other lawmakers but also with reporters. She was the first spokeswoman of the Grand National Party and the longest-serving spokesperson for the conservative party.

“Cho has broad experience in the National Assembly, the (Saenuri) party and the government. She is expected to play a crucial role in mediating between the government and the assembly through her delicate sense as a woman and her sociability,” said presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook when announcing the names of new senior secretaries last week.

By Cho Chung-un (