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Moon’s security adviser tapped as top diplomat amid stalled peace talks

Chung Eui-yong (left), then the national security chief of South Korea, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their meeting in Pyeongyang in this 2018 file photo. (Cheong Wa Dae)
Chung Eui-yong (left), then the national security chief of South Korea, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their meeting in Pyeongyang in this 2018 file photo. (Cheong Wa Dae)

President Moon Jae-in’s longtime aide who has served as his top security adviser since the presidential campaign, Chung Eui-yong, 74, has been nominated to serve as foreign minister.

Chung has long helped shape Moon’s engagement policy for North Korea as well as his vision for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

When Moon took office in 2017, Chung was picked to lead the presidential National Security Office at Cheong Wa Dae and held the post for three years.

Moon pushed hard on the North Korea issue from the very beginning of his term and Chung played a key role in mediating the process, which led to three summit talks with the North in 2018 alone.

Chung was also instrumental in bringing Washington to the negotiation table with the North. At the time, the US was still skeptical about the North’s reconciliatory stance toward Seoul, and Moon sent Chung to Pyongyang as a special envoy to discuss ways to defrost the sour Washington and Pyongyang ties.

The combined efforts led to a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in 2018. But since the breakdown of their second meeting in Hanoi in 2019, the peace talks on the Korean Peninsula have been almost at a standstill.

Chung’s nomination, announced just ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration as US president for Joe Biden, is seen as reflecting Moon’s will to revive his peace drive and help resume nuclear diplomacy between the US and the North.

“I think it’s my last chance to serve the country. I take this nomination as a candidate for public office with a humble and solemn heart,” Chung said in a message sent to media.

“If confirmed, I’ll do my utmost so that the foreign policy pursued by the Moon Jae-in government can bear fruit and the Korean Peninsula peace process can take root.”

Born in Seoul in 1946, Chung graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in diplomacy. After passing the higher civil service examination on foreign affairs, he worked as a career diplomat for almost 30 years. He has served in several posts, including ambassador to Israel and Geneva and chairman of the International Labor Organization.

He became a lawmaker of the liberal Uri Party, a precursor of the current ruling Democratic Party of Korea, in 2004. He later briefly worked as an adviser at local law firm Sejong. 

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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