Yoon taps foreign policy mentor as top security official

Kim Sung-han, nominee of the National Security Office head (Yonhap)

Kim Sung-han, nominee of the National Security Office head (Yonhap)

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has appointed his close aide Kim Sung-han, who served as vice foreign minister during the Lee Myung-bak administration, as the head of the National Security Office in a new streamlined presidential office.

“Nominee Kim Sung-han is an authority in foreign affairs and security, who served as the second vice minister of foreign affairs and trade, and has theoretical and policy-making capabilities,” Yoon’s chief of staff Chang Je-won announced at the press briefing Sunday afternoon.

“We judged him to be the right person to act as a control tower to protect the nation’s safety and the people by actively responding to the security environment at home and abroad,” he said.

Kim is President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s childhood friend. They went to elementary school together. Since Yoon stepped down as prosecutor general in March last year, Kim has served as his adviser to foreign affairs and security.

The nominee’s diplomatic stance is based on a solid alliance between Korea and the US. He is expected to focus his efforts on restoring the Korea-US alliance, which has been strained during President Moon Jae-in’s term. On the North Korean nuclear issue, he has maintained the position that there will be no easing of sanctions before actual denuclearization. He is expected to pursue forward-looking Korea-Japan relations.

After the announcement of the appointment, he told reporters, “In terms of relations with North Korea, we will denuclearize (the North) from an equal standpoint rather than following it unconditionally,” adding, “We will have principled inter-Korean relations.”

As for the first deputy director of the National Security Office, Kim Tae-hyo, former presidential secretary for external strategy planning, was appointed. Shin In-ho, former presidential secretary for crisis management, was appointed as the second deputy director.

For the head of the security department, Kim Yong-hyun, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Ministry of National Defense, was appointed.

Chang said he expects Kim to play a key role in returning Cheong Wa Dae to the people for the first time in more than 70 years at a historical point. The incoming Yoon administration plans to relocate the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae.

For senior secretary positions, former Vice Minister of Strategy and Finance Choi Sang-mok was appointed as economic secretary. Seoul National University professor Ahn Sang-hoon was picked as secretary for social affairs.

Former lawmaker Lee Jin-bok was nominated for political affairs and journalist-turned Hyosung Group vice president Choi Young-bum was appointed for public affairs.

Former lawmaker Kang Seung-kyoo as secretary of civil society. Kang In-sun, a former journalist and spokesperson for the presidential transition committee’s foreign media, was appointed as the spokesperson.

The new presidential office will be reorganized from the current “three offices and eight secretaries” to “two offices and five secretaries.” The new office will include secretary and national security offices as well as economic, social, political, public relations and civil society secretaries.

The chief policy officer role and those of three secretaries for civil affairs, jobs and personnel affairs will be abolished.

By Shin Ji-hye (

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