Beginning next month, our current Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Nations, Kim Sam-hoon, will be replaced by Dr. Choi Young-jin (pictured). The whispers around the office suggest that where Ambassador Kim was remote and chose to tread softly, Dr. Choi is expected to take be more engaged and active.
Currently the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, he’s held various posts in the Ministry and also served as Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna. More interesting, though, is his work in the 1990s. From 1995 to 1997, Dr. Choi was Deputy Executive Director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), where he oversaw the $5 billion effort to construct two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea, a country he’s visited six times. This will stand him in good stead in his second role, Chairman of the First Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security. So, presumably, will his stint as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations in 1998 and 1999, during which he was in charge of planning and support for 17 peacekeeping operations, including those in Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone and the Congo.
Considering that I work on speeches for the First and Fourth committees (the latter oversees peacekeeping), I hold out some hope that I will actually get to work with the new ambassador, or at least talk to him now and then. In the meantime, I can look forward to next Thursday’s farewell reception for Ambassador Kim, where I will eat well, and the Ambassador, as usual, will say not a word to me.