Kwon Young-se is an experienced South Korean politician in the Saenuri Party. President Park recently appointed him as the Republic of Korea (ROK)’s new ambassador to China. He was a law maker in Seoul for three consecutive terms before missing out on re-election in April 2012. Prior to joining President Park’s campaign Kwon was known as a leader of the party’s pro-reform group. He held important positions in the Saenuri Party as the head of strategic planning and twice served as the secretary-general of its previous incarnation, the Grand National Party (GNP). Kwon has served as a chairman of the intelligence committee of the National Assembly from 2010 to 2012 and prior to that was a member of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification committee.
Born in 1959, the Seoul native is a Seoul National University graduate in law and a former senior prosecutor specializing in public security. As a prosecutor, Kwon wrote a book about Unified Germany’s processing of confiscated property with Chae Dong-wook, the new prosecutor-general. After earning his MA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Kwon started his political career in 2002 as an elected member of the National Assembly.
Why has he been in the news?
Kwon Young-se is the new ROK ambassador to China, and assumed his post in Beijing on June 4, 2013. Kwon is currently one of the most powerful senior level members of the Saenuri Party. As a main architect for Park’s campaign in 2012, Kwon significantly contributed to the strategy behind then presidential candidate Park Geun-hye’s campaign. President Park appointing such a trusted supporter as the ambassador to China reaffirms her administration’s resolve to enhance relations with China.
What can we expect from him?
Going forward the expectation for the China-ROK relationship is very high since President-elect Park’s first overseas envoy was sent to China in January. During her election campaign, Park pledged to further develop the two countries’ strategic partnership. On the one hand, some have criticized Park’s appointment of ambassadors who lack expertise in diplomacy. In this case, critics point out that Kwon has had no experience in dealing with China. This narrative is similar to critiques of Lee Myung-baks’s administration in which some ambassadorial appointees lacked diplomatic experience, and the results showed that those appointees failed to solve the existing problems in the relationships they were entrusted with.
On the other hand, since North Korea and unification issues are in Kwon’s areas of expertise sending a DPRK expert to China, the most influential player regarding the North Korea issue, conveys a strong message to China that North Korea issues will be heavily considered in China-ROK diplomacy. Kwon’s appointment raises expectation for prompt and effective communication with President Park regarding sensitive diplomatic issues between South Korea and China.