December 20, 2023
SEOUL – South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday announced another batch in the ongoing Cabinet reshuffle, with President Yoon Suk Yeol nominating his national security adviser to be chief of the intelligence agency and a former top envoy to the United Nations as new foreign minister. A new bureau dedicated to economic security in the presidential National Security Office will also be created as part of the reshuffle, his office said.
According to the office, Yoon named Director of the National Security Office Cho Tae-yong as the nominee for chief of the National Intelligence Service.
The 67-year-old is expected to fill a leadership void at the spy agency that has lasted for weeks. Yoon accepted the resignation of National Intelligence Service head Kim Kyou-hyun in late November, along with two other deputies.
Chief of Staff Kim Dae-ki described the spy chief nominee as “a security strategist with vast experience and expertise in South Korea-US relationship and North Korea issues.”
Cho was named national security director in March, succeeding Kim Sung-han and becoming the second security adviser of Yoon. He previously served as first vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, first deputy chief of the National Security Office and ambassador to the United States.
But the presidential office did not announce who would succeed Cho as director of the presidential National Security Office.
Yoon also named Cho Tae-yul, formerly permanent representative of South Korea to the United Nations and second vice minister of foreign affairs, as the nominee for foreign minister to succeed Park Jin.
Before serving as ambassador to the UN, the 68-year-old was the longest-serving vice minister among all Cabinet members of the former conservative Park Geun-hye administration. Cho also formerly chaired the World Trade Organization dispute panel and government procurement committee.
“Against the backdrop of the economy and security interconnected in international affairs, nominee Cho’s expertise in trade and diplomatic skills could help South Korea navigate the various diplomatic uncertainties,” presidential chief of staff Kim Dae-ki said at a news conference.
This comes as incumbent Foreign Minister Park Jin earlier this week expressed his intention to vie for a parliamentary seat in the April general election. He said in a media interview with YTN that he would “return to the National Assembly and do his best to help the People Power Party win public sentiment,” should the Cabinet shakeup take place. Park was previously a four-term lawmaker, partially serving two terms.
In the meantime, an official of the presidential office who declined to be named said it was planning to reorganize the presidential National Security Office to create a new team dedicated to economic security matters. The NSO currently has two divisions, one representing international affairs and the other dealing with national defense.
“The barrier between diplomacy and economic affairs is blurring, and a tectonic shift in international trade order is unraveling, leaving the peaceful time under free trade doctrine in the past,” the official said. “The new third deputy chief of the NSO will be tasked with supply chain stabilization in this regard.”
This comes as part of a series of Cabinet reshuffles, in line with the embattled People Power Party’s effort to flip seats at the National Assembly, where the majority of seats are currently occupied by members of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.
On Sunday, Yoon chose Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun as the nominee to succeed Bang Moon-kyu, minister of trade, industry and energy. Earlier on Dec. 4, Yoon named nominees for six ministers — mostly bureaucrats and scholars — to replace other Cabinet members, with most who were leaving likely to run for parliament seats.
There is speculation that Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon will step down, too.
Han, a 50-year-old former prosecutor who has no political experience, is considered a strong candidate to lead the ruling People Power Party that is currently in contingency mode. Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon stepped down as party leader last week, expressing hopes that his decision would help unify the party ahead of next year’s general election.