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Who is Yeo Han-koo?

Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo (Yonhap)
Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo (Yonhap)
South Korea’s new Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo is a veteran negotiator who sat at the bargaining table for many of the free trade deals South Korea has inked over the past two decades, including the one with the European Union.

Before assuming his current position on Aug. 9, the 51-year-old bureaucrat served as presidential secretary for the New Southern and New Northern policies -- President Moon Jae-in’s signature foreign policy initiatives to expand the nation’s economic and political ties with countries north and south of the Korean Peninsula.

A native of Seoul, Yeo graduated from Seoul National University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1992 and passed the 36th Higher Civil Service Examination the same year.

He went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

Yeo accumulated overseas experience at the International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, and as a minister counselor at the Korean Embassy in the US.

At the Trade Ministry, he has held key positions and helped shape the country’s trade policies and deals.

Now shuttling between the capital Seoul and Sejong, where the head office of the Trade Ministry is located, he leads a team of versatile strategists and negotiators from various backgrounds.

“I want my team to be nimble, agile and open to new ideas” so it can respond to the shifting dynamics of international trade, he said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

The minister has written two books in Korean, including one about his experience in the Harvard MBA program.

He is currently on his first US trip as Seoul’s chief negotiator, holding a series of meetings with his counterparts, including one with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Monday.

By Kim Byung-wook (
Korea Herald Youtube