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New U.S. ambassador to S. Korea arrives for duty

Sung Kim, Washington’s newly appointed chief diplomat to Seoul, arrived here to officially start his duty on Thursday.

Kim, a Korean-American former State Department official, was named as the new ambassador to South Korea based on his expertise on North Korea and the peninsula. He was sworn in last week in Washington, becoming the first U.S. ambassador to Seoul of Korean heritage since the two sides established diplomatic ties 129 years ago.

The appointment of the 51-year-old career diplomat is anticipated by observers here to have positive influence on bilateral ties and ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. Kim will be replacing Kathleen Stephens.

Kim has served as Washington’s special envoy for the multinational talks aimed at North Korea’s denuclearization since 2008. The six-nation talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been stalled for more than two years, causing regional concerns over Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear ambitions.

Dialogue partners have been escalating discussions over when and how to resume the long-suspended negotiations, but lingering tensions between the two Koreas have been serving as a major stumbling block.

Kim, born 1960 in South Korea, emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s after his father retired from his post in the government and obtained U.S. citizenship in 1980.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Kim went to Loyola School of Law and served as a state prosecutor before changing his profession to a diplomat.

Since 2003, when he began to work as a first secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Kim has attended several rounds of the six-way nuclear disarmament talks and visited Pyongyang more than 10 times as a key North Korean expert in Washington.

By Shin Hae-in
(hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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