Embassy Row: Korea’s new course

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South Korea’s new conservative president is planning to dispatch a career diplomat as her ambassador to the United States to help manage a bilateral trade deal, while sending a different signal to China and Japan by naming close political supporters as envoys to those neighboring countries.

President Park Geun-hye announced the diplomatic shake-up Sunday, even before her nominees received the routine agreement from Washington, Beijing and Tokyo to receive the new ambassadors.Ahn Ho-young, 56, will replace Ambassador Choi Young-jin, who has been ambassador in Washington since March 2012. Mr. Choi is also a career diplomat.

Ms. Park, who took office in February, picked Kwon Young-se, a senior campaign manager and former member of parliament, for the post in Beijing. He will replace Lee Kyu-hyung, who has been in China since May 2011.For Japan, she tapped Lee Byung-kee, an adviser to the Yeouido Institute, a public policy group affiliated with her Saenuri political party. He will succeed Shin Kak-soo, who has been ambassador to Japan since May 2011.

“The appointments of Kwon and Lee [Byung-kee], who were key campaign officials for Park during the presidential election underline her strong resolve to enhance bilateral relations with Beijing and Tokyo,” the Korean Herald said Sunday.

China is seen as the only nation in the region that can control the erratic behavior of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has been threatening war against the United States and South Korea and promising to launch nuclear missiles at his enemies in Washington and Seoul.

Ms. Park’s selection of Mr. Ahn as ambassador to the United States shows her desire to have a professional diplomat with strong trade credentials in Washington.Mr. Ahn’s most recent post was vice foreign minister, a position he held from February 2012 through last month. He also has served as ambassador to Belgium and the European Union.The United States and South Korea last month marked the first anniversary of a trade agreement that boosted bilateral exports and cut import tariffs in both countries.

Mr. Choi has praised the free trade agreement for opening a “new chapter in the Korea-U.S. alliance.”

Diplomatic traffic:

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

Nicholas Herbert Stern, Britain’s Baron Stern of Brentford, who discusses climate issues at the International Monetary Fund headquarters.

Wednesday

Tvrtko Jakovina, a professor at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, who discusses the status of the Non-Aligned Movement at a briefing at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Thursday

President Federico Franco of Paraguay, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue. Laszlo Borhi, a history professor at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who discusses Eastern European politics at a briefing at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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