South Korea president names top ministers and chief security adviser

New president Moon Jae-In's government faces a host of challenges including kick-starting the economy, soothing ties with China and dealing with North Korea.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Moon favours engagement with North Korea to bring it to the negotiating table, but after a recent missile launch said dialogue would be possible "only if Pyongyang changes its behaviour".

South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Sunday announced his picks for finance and foreign ministers while appointing a former diplomat as his top security advisor for his new government.

During a televised press briefing, the new president announced that he appointed former vice finance minister Kim Dong-Yeon as deputy prime minister and finance minister, while a UN senior adviser on policy Kang Kyung-Wha was named as the foreign minister.

Moon was elected earlier this month after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached over an extensive corruption scandal. Park was the first democratically elected leader in South Korea to be removed from office, triggering a snap election to choose her successor.

Moon stressed the need to improve conditions for ordinary people, with his government needing to put more life into a sluggish economic recovery.

"Our new government has begun work amid unprecedented low growth, economic polarisation and economic hardships for the working class," Moon said.

Kim, the president's pick for the finance portfolio, is known for his attention to detail and humble personal background.

Kang, who has been working at the UN since 2006, was the best candidate poised to "raise the status of our diplomacy by with her abundant experience on the international stage and strong initiative", said Moon.

"She has often been referred to as the first and the best female foreign affairs expert so it is significant in terms of gender equality in the Cabinet as well," he added.

Global and domestic challenges

The new administration faces diplomatic challenges, soothing ties with China, the biggest buyer of South Korean goods, after they became strained by the deployment of US THAAD anti-missile system, as well as increased tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.

As his national security advisor, Moon appointed Chung Eui-Yong, a former diplomat-turned-lawmaker who acted as his top foreign policy advisor during his campaign for the presidency.

Chung met with US President Donald Trump's security advisers last week to discuss an upcoming summit and North Korea's nuclear issues.

While the post is traditionally held by a military official, Moon said: "In the face of North Korea's nuclear threats, I believe the role of diplomacy is ever more important for our security."

The South Korean president also named Moon Chung-In, an honorary professor at Seoul's Yonsei University, and Hong Seok-Hyun, former head of mass-circulated JoongAng Ilbo daily, as his special advisors for diplomatic and security issues.

"The two advisors will discuss with me the new government's diplomatic and security policy direction," Moon said.

The new leader also begins his term facing multiple domestic challenges, including the aftermath of the huge corruption scandal that saw his conservative predecessor Park impeached and swept him to power, but left the country bitterly divided.


TRTWorld and agencies