The Foreign Ministry is expected to undertake a major personnel shake-up in the coming few weeks including ambassadors to key partners such as the U.S., China and Japan, officials said Friday.
The ministry recently instructed the heads of all 158 overseas missions to submit their resignation, they said. This is considered to be part of a customary post-presidential election process under which new President Park Geun-hye will decide whether to reappoint or replace them.
In the past most incumbents have tended to stay at their jobs. The exceptions have usually been those who served out their terms and ambassadors to core partners including the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
Cooperation with the four countries, who are members of the six-party forum aimed at disarming North Korea, is particularly crucial in tackling bilateral, regional and global issues. The four envoys will be tasked with helping to execute Park’s “trust process” policy designed to make way for inter-Korean reconciliation.
Former Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young and former diplomat and lawmaker Park Jin are among the possible candidates to be the next ambassador to Washington, while chief six-party talks negotiator Lim Sung-nam has been suggested for Beijing.
Former representative to the European Union and Belgium Park Joon-woo and former envoy to Britain Choo Kyu-ho are among the candidates for ambassador to Tokyo.
The current ambassador to Moscow Wi Sung-lac is speculated to be reappointed given his expertise and experience as a Russia specialist and longest-serving former chief nuclear negotiator.
Officials are closely watching if Park will follow her predecessors in assigning confidants with little diplomatic experience to key envoy posts. During the Lee Myung-bak administration, a record 43 outsiders ― mostly his associates and political or economic advisors ― took up diplomatic positions at one point, triggering charges of cronyism and nepotism.
Adding uncertainty to the ministry’s lineup is the transfer of trade negotiating power to the newly expanded Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources, which will entail relocation of at least half of some 150 diplomats and officials belonging to the relevant departments.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)