The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Ex-defense minister named ambassador to Australia

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : March 4, 2024 - 14:10

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Then-South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaks during the main session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 3, 2023. (International Institute for Strategic Studies) Then-South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaks during the main session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 3, 2023. (International Institute for Strategic Studies)

Former South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup has been named as the country's new ambassador to Australia amid growing defense and arms industrial cooperation between the two countries.

Lee, who served as defense minister from May 2022 to October 2023, played a crucial role in the exportation of Redback infantry fighting vehicles manufactured by South Korea’s Hanwha Defense.

Lee also held the position of vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2017 to 2018. Lee's academic achievements include earning a Master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee after graduating from the Korea Military Academy.

The selection of the former defense minister, who served just before the incumbent defense chief, as the ambassador to a key country is highly unusual.

Lee's appointment also marks the first time a former defense chief has assumed such a diplomatic role just months after his resignation.

The only recent similar case is that of former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo, who held the position from 2006 to 2008 and later served as the ambassador to China from 2015 to 2017.

Lee is not the only military official to transition to an ambassadorial role.

Additionally, Former Vice Chief of Naval Operations Kim Pan-kyu has been appointed as the ambassador to Nigeria, a region known for frequent pirate attacks.

Kim, a seasoned Navy officer, retired as a vice admiral in 2019 after dedicating his career to the Navy since graduating from the Naval Academy in 1983.