From left, Kim Eun-hye, Lee Kwan-sup and Lim Jong-deuk, new presidential appointees Yoon Suk-yeol, attend a press conference at the presidential office in Yongsan District, central Seoul, on Sunday. [NEWS1]

From left, Kim Eun-hye, Lee Kwan-sup and Lim Jong-deuk, new presidential appointees Yoon Suk-yeol, attend a press conference at the presidential office in Yongsan District, central Seoul, on Sunday. [NEWS1]

President Yoon Suk-yeol made three key appointments to the presidential office on Sunday as the administration grapples with low approval ratings.

Posts with new blood include those related to public relations and national security, while a new post is being created despite Yoon’s promise to run a lean office.

Lee Kwan-sup, vice chairman of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) and former vice minister of commerce, was named senior presidential secretary for policy planning, a newly created position.

“In terms of people’s livelihood and policy agenda, he is the most suitable person to lead the realization of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s major national tasks through better communication and understanding between people, ministries and the presidential office.” the presidential office said in a statement.

Lee previously served in other positions at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, including Deputy Minister for Energy and Resources and Deputy Minister for Industrial Policy. He later served as CEO of the state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and later resigned from the position in January 2018 in defiance of the Moon Jae-in government’s nuclear phase-out initiative.

Lee received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Seoul National University and a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

At a briefing on Sunday afternoon, presidential chief of staff Kim Dae-ki noted Lee’s extensive experience as a traditional bureaucrat overseeing industrial resource and energy policies and said: “He is valued not only for his ability to plan and coordinated all aspects of state affairs, but also for his sense of political affairs”.

Kim Eun-hye, a former People’s Power Party (PPP) lawmaker and a spokesperson for President-elect Yoon in his transition process, was appointed as the new senior press secretary.

She previously worked as a reporter and anchor at local broadcaster MBC and MBN. Kim was a presidential spokesperson from 2008 to 2010 during the Lee Myung-bak administration.

Kim recently ran to become governor of Gyeonggi in the June 1 local election, but lost by 0.15 percentage points to Democratic Party (DP) candidate Kim Dong-yeon. She gave up her seat as a lawmaker representing District A of Bundang in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, to run in the election.

“We believe she has the best expertise in public and media relations,” said presidential chief of staff Kim. “In particular, she has a very deep understanding of the president’s political philosophy from her time serving as the campaign committee’s public relations director and spokesperson for the president-elect, and she was determined to be the right person for properly communicated with the people and the media”.

She will replace Choi Young-bum, who in turn will take on the role of special adviser on foreign relations.

Lim Jong-deuk, a former chief of staff at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), was appointed as the new second deputy national security adviser.

He replaces Shin In-ho, who stepped down earlier this month due to health reasons.

Lim, a former two-star army general, served as presidential defense secretary during Park Geun-hye’s administration.

“He has served in key positions in the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said chief of staff Kim, and is a “recognized expert in the fields of defense policy and military strategy” who will assist security policies of the Yoon government. “to strengthen the calm defense posture and demonstrate its national crisis management capabilities.”

The appointments come amid low approval ratings for the president, in part due to criticism of poor personnel choices.

“It is true that I am very afraid,” Kim Eun-hye said during a press conference on Sunday. “I will work hard as a bridge to convey people’s expectations and wishes with a modest attitude and properly convey President Yoon Suk-yeol’s political philosophy.”

“It seems that there are many people who feel sorry for the Yoon administration, which was launched with high expectations and hopes from the public,” said Lee Kwan-sup. “I plan to do my best for a government that can achieve national unity while upholding justice and common sense as it was originally put forward.”

During his campaign, Yoon emphasized weakening the presidential office and eliminating any unnecessary posts after taking office. But presidential officials have also expressed concern about the lack of staff to carry out the duties of the presidential office.

With the creation of the post of senior presidential secretary for policy and planning, the presidential office will be expanded from the current structure of “two offices and five secretaries” to “two offices and six secretaries”.

BY SARAH KIM [[email protected]]

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