The Leaderboard: Cho Tae-yong

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is he?

Cho Tae-yong is the new Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, having been appointed on May 27, 2013 to replace Lim Sung-nam, who have held the post since 2011. He is a career diplomat with 33 years of experience. Prior to his current appointment, he served as the ROK Ambassador to Australia from 2011 to 2013. The bulk of his time was spent in the North American Affairs Bureau, where he served as director general from 2006 to 2007.

Cho Tae-yong

Cho Tae-yong. Source: ROK MFA.

Cho has some experience dealing previously with denuclearization, having served as the deputy chief of the South Korean delegation to the Six-Party Talks from 2004 to 2006. Ambassador Cho received a degree in Political Science from Seoul National University in 1979, and has also studied at the Oxford University in the U.K.

Why has he been in the news?

Ambassador Cho made an overseas trip at the end of June to meet with his Japanese, Chinese, and U.S. colleagues. His first trip to Washington began on June 17, a three-day visit where he met with his American and Japanese counterparts, Glyn Davies and Shinsuke Sugiyama, for bilateral and trilateral consultations on North Korea. Although talks have been suspended since 2008, it has gained some traction lately as both North Korea and China have hinted in several high-level meetings – such as Choe Ryong-hae’s visit to Beijing in late May – that its resumption will be welcomed as tensions tempered down on the Korean peninsula.

The calls for resumptions intensified on June 20, when the Chinese called for its early resumption after “strategic talks” with North Korea’s top nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan. Cho rounded out his trip by paying a visit to Beijing on Friday, June 21 and met with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei before he went back to Seoul. The biggest support for resuming the six-party talks came during the Park-Xi summit last Thursday, June 27, when the two leaders adopted a wide-ranging communique that called for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

What can we expect from him?

Ambassador Cho has a tall task ahead of him, trying to revive the six-party talks while dealing with an unwieldy North Korea that had for most of 2013 engaged in provocative actions – such as the 3rd nuclear test – and ramped up great tensions on the peninsula. During his visit to Washington, he raised the bar for talks with North Korea by calling for “stronger requirements” than the failed 2012 Leap Year deal between the U.S. and North Korea. These words reflect what President Park Geun-hye had voiced earlier on June 17 during her phone call conversation with President Barack Obama, where she clearly opposed “holding talks for the sake of talks” in response to North Korea’s recent overtures for dialogue with South Korea and the U.S.  The road to denuclearization will be tough, but with an astute diplomat of his caliber and experience, the path to achieve Park’s “trustpolitik” just became a little more concrete.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *