|South Korea's Ambassador to the U.S. Cho Tae-yong speaks at an annual meeting of South Korean chiefs of overseas diplomatic missions at Lotte Hotel in Seoul, Tuesday. Cho was named the new director of national security, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Nam Hyun-woo
|National Security Adviser Kim Sung-han /Yonhap|
"President Yoon decided after contemplation to accept National Security Director Kim's offer to resign," senior presidential secretary for public relations Kim Eun-hye said in a press briefing. "And the president tapped Ambassador Cho as the new national security director."
The presidential secretary added that Cho's successor will be nominated soon.
The announcement came just a month before Yoon is to make a state visit to the U.S. and have a summit with President Joe Biden on April 26.
Cho is one of the diplomatic experts who helped map out the foreign policy platform for Yoon's presidential election campaign last year, along with the outgoing director and Kim Tae-hyo, the first deputy director of national security.
Cho is a career diplomat with more than 30 years of experience and has a reputation as an expert versed in South Korea's relations with the United States and Seoul's strategy in countering North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Under the previous Park Geun-hye administration, Cho served as the first vice foreign minister and first deputy director of national security. Before that, Cho was Seoul's chief envoy to six-party talks aimed to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
During the Park administration, Cho mostly engaged in talks with key officials of the Barack Obama administration, including current Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Since many of these officials are now part of the Biden administration, pundits say that Cho is well-connected with the U.S.
His solid connections with U.S. officials were showcased when he accompanied Yoon for a meeting with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim last April when Yoon was president-elect.
After becoming the U.S. ambassador, Cho earned a reputation for his frequent meetings with U.S. officials and South Korean stakeholders in the U.S. On March 20, Cho had a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and discussed pending economic issues between the two countries, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and chips act subsidy program.
|Then president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol poses with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim, third from left, during their closed-door meeting at the home of National Assembly Deputy Speaker Rep. Chung Jin-suk, left, in Seoul, April 19, 2022. On the right is Cho Tae-yong, who was a lawmaker at the time. Courtesy of presidential transition committee|
In regard to North Korea, Cho has been advocating for the U.S. extended deterrence as a tool to contain Pyongyang's threats. During the National Assembly's government audit last October, Cho said the most important thing in countering the North's threats is "strengthening the extended deterrence."
Cho is now in Seoul to attend an annual meeting of South Korean chiefs of overseas diplomatic missions, and the presidential office said he will start moving into his new position immediately.
Cho's nomination came minutes after Kim announced his intention to resign in a text message sent to reporters, saying he hopes "the country's diplomacy and state affairs will not be affected by controversies stemming from me."
Recently, news reports and speculations have been alleging that Yoon may consider replacing Kim over confusion in handling the president's diplomatic activities, following the surprise resignations of protocol and foreign affairs secretaries earlier this month.
Before Kim announced his resignation, the presidential office had been insisting that he would continue to serve his role. Kim's resignation triggered concerns that the abrupt personnel changes will disrupt planning for Yoon's U.S. state visit next month.
"Initially, the office did not consider replacing the national security director, but Kim expressed his intention several times to prevent affecting state affairs negatively," a senior official at the presidential office said. "As far as I know, Yoon also tried to dissuade him from resigning."