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New envoys named to China, Japan, U.N.

President Lee Myung-bak named former ambassador to Russia Lee Kyu-hyung and ex-vice minister of foreign affairs Shin Kak-soo as ambassadors to China and Japan, respectively, Cheong Wa Dae said Thursday.

The president also nominated Kim Sook, who served as chief negotiator at the six-nation nuclear talks and then as deputy chief of the National Intelligence Service, as South Korean ambassador to the United Nations.

Lee requested Beijing and Tokyo for agreement on his nominations of top envoys, Lee’s top aide for public affairs Hong Sang-pyo said.
 
Kim Sook will be immediately appointed to succeed Park In-kook as top diplomat to the U.N. while ambassador nominees to the two neighboring countries will take office upon approval from Beijing and Tokyo followed by other procedures including a Cabinet meeting, according to Hong.

If approved by China, Lee Kyu-hyung will replace Yu Woo-ik, President Lee’s first chief-of-staff until June 2008 who was appointed top envoy to China in late 2009.

“Having served diplomatic missions in all of South Korea’s three closest neighbors Japan, China and Russia, Lee Kyu-hyung is expected to further develop Seoul’s strategic partnership with Beijing based on his personal network in China and experience of promoting economic cooperation with Russia,” Hong said.

He is also expected to achieve a “new level of collaboration on pending issues concerning North Korea such as its nuclear program,” Hong said.

Sixty-year-old Lee had retired last year.

If approved, Shin Kak-soo, who resigned as first vice minister of foreign affairs last month, will succeed Kwon Chul-hyun, ambassador to Japan for the past three years.

Shin had offered to step down as vice minister late last year to take responsibility for a scandal involving the ministry’s preferential employment of his boss’s daughter. Shin had substituted for former foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan after Yu quit after news reports that his daughter was given special treatment in the recruitment process.

Hong said the nominations came “naturally” as ambassadors Kwon, Yu and Park have already served enough terms ― two to three years.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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