[Newsmaker] Moon Jae-in names special envoys, adds Europe to list

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 15, 2017 - 15:45
  • Updated : May 15, 2017 - 18:04
President Moon Jae-in named his special envoys to major powers Monday, adding Germany and the European Union to the usual list of four -- China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“The addition of the EU and Germany to the four major neighboring countries shows the new government’s will to expand the horizon of the country’s diplomatic (ties),” the presidential office said in a statement.

For this new role, Moon chose Sogang University economist Cho Yoon-jae, and the chief delegates include a lawmaker and a former ambassador to Germany. Cho served former President Roh Moo-hyun as an economic adviser in 2003 and as Seoul’s ambassador to the UK between 2005 and 2008. The delegation also includes Bae Gi-chan, the chief director of United Korea Cooperative, a nongovernmental organization working for the reunification of the two Koreas.

This combined file photo shows Hong Seok-hyun (L), a former chairman and CEO of the JoongAng Media Network; former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan (2nd from L); and Democratic Party Reps. Moon Hee-sang and Rep. Song Young-gil (R). (Yonhap)

For the critical role of special envoy to the US, Moon chose former Chairman of JoongAng Media Network Hong Seok-hyun. In the run-up to the May 9 presidential election, Hong was rumored to have presidential ambitions. However, after he chose to support Moon, rumors circulated that Moon was considering him for the post of prime minister.

Hong, who served as Seoul’s ambassador to the US in 2005, will be accompanied by a former diplomat, a national security expert and a ruling party lawmaker. Hong’s delegation is the only one to include a businessman -- Ryu Jin of defense contractor Poongsan.

“The president spoke to the leaders of major countries, and explained the government’s vision and policy direction on a number of crucial issues including North Korea’s nuclear program,” chief presidential press secretary Yoon Young-chan said.

“(The special envoys) are individuals best equipped to convey the president’s visions in diplomatic affairs and have a clear understanding of them.”

The envoys’ connections to their destinations appear to have played a big part in the selection of the special envoys to China, Japan and Russia.

Special envoy to China, Rep. Lee Hae-chan of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, served the same role for Roh while he was president-elect. He is said to have maintained close ties with Chinese leaders.

Lee’s selection was quickly met with positive assessment from the Chinese media.

In a Chinese-language report, China’s state-run Global Times assessed Lee’s selection as a move to improved strained relations between Seoul and Beijing. Citing Lee’s experience of representing Roh in Beijing and his ties to Chinese officials, the report said that the seven-term lawmaker was a pro-China figure.

In a separate but related development, the ruling party’s Rep. Park Byeong-seug is said to have met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday. Park is leading Seoul’s delegation to an international economic forum in Beijing.

At the meeting, Xi expressed hopes to improve relations, Park told reporters.

As for the special envoy to Japan, Rep. Moon Hee-sang is a veteran politician, who served as the chairman of the Korea-Japan lawmakers’ association between 2004 and 2008.

For special envoy to Russia, Moon chose the ruling party’s Rep. Song Young-gil. In 2013, Song was awarded a medal from the Russian government for his efforts in increasing exchanges between the two countries while he was mayor of Incheon. Song also currently serves as a deputy chairman of the Korea-Russia lawmakers’ association.

By Choi He-suk (