The Leaderboard: Yun Byung-se

Who is he?

Yun Byung-se has just been nominated as the Foreign Minister under the incoming Park Geun-hye administration. Born in Seoul, South Korea in 1953, Yun is a career diplomat with 32 years of experience. After receiving degrees in law at Seoul National University he earned an M.A. degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS in 1983.

Yun entered the Foreign Ministry in 1976 and his postings included the United States (Political Minister with Ambassador’s rank), the United Nations (both the New York and Geneva missions), Singapore and Australia. Yun also served as the chief of policy coordination at the National Security Council (2004-2006), the Deputy Foreign Minister (2006) and then Senior Presidential Secretary for Foreign, Security and Unification Policy in the Roh Moo-hyun Administration.

After leaving government, Yun took a senior position at the law firm of Kim & Chang and also held positions at several Korean foreign and security policy institutions, including Park Geun-hye’s think tank, the National Future Institute.

Why is he in the news?

On February 13, Yun was nominated by President-elect Park Geun-hye for the Foreign Minister position. Prior to his nomination, he was part of the transition team’s foreign policy and defense committee. Most importantly, he was one of the primary architects of Park’s “trustpolitik” policy towards North Korea, her road map for a peaceful Northeast Asia and national reunification.

What can we expect from him?

Ambassador Yun will have his work cut out for him as he is immediately handed the daunting task of dealing with North Korea’s third nuclear test, as well as responding to regional problems such as revived nationalism in Shinzo Abe’s Japan, the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China, two important trading partners, and sensitive territorial disputes in East Asia. Domestically, he has the critical job of restoring stability and morale to a Foreign Ministry still smarting from its loss of trade negotiations authority.

But given his thirty-year diplomatic experience – evident in his participation in the 2007 inter-Korea summit and his key role in coordinating diplomatic successes such as Korea’s admission to the U.N., the inauguration of APEC, and the 3rd Asia-Europe Summit in Korea – and a reputation for diligence and professional expertise, Yun appears well-equipped to take on the tasks at hand.


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