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Cablegate: Han Seung-Soo Tapped As Lee Myung-Bak's First

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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 000178

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SENSITIVE

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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (SENSITIVE CAPTION ADDED)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KN KS
SUBJECT: HAN SEUNG-SOO TAPPED AS LEE MYUNG-BAK'S FIRST
PRIME MINISTER

1. (SBU) Summary: President-elect Lee Myung-bak officially
announced the nomination of Han Seung-soo, UN Special Envoy
on Climate Change, as the first Prime Minister for his
government. Lee is said to have taken into account Han's
extensive experience with state affairs and his credentials
as a global leader. His confirmation hearing motion will be
submitted to the National Assembly soon, and will be voted on
shortly after the inauguration on February 25. End Summary.

----------------
The Announcement
----------------

2. (SBU) In a press conference on January 28,
President-elect Lee Myung-bak officially nominated Dr. Han
Seung-soo as the first Prime Minister for the incoming
administration. In the press announcement, President-elect
Lee cited Han's global outlook and diverse experience at home
and abroad. Lee also referenced Han's work in previous
administrations, which, Lee said, qualified Han to work well
within the Cabinet, the government, and the international
community. Prime Minister-nominee Han referred to China's
"resource diplomacy" and said he would work hard to turn
Korea into a global nation. Concerning some possible
controversy surrounding his past involvement with the Chung
Doo-hwan military government's Special Committee for National
Security Measures, Han said that he was called on to take
charge of financial matters in the economic crisis that
followed President Park's death.

----------------------
Biographic Information
----------------------

3. (SBU) Han has enjoyed a distinguished career over more
than three decades with the political, governmental, and
academic circles. Born in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province in
1936, Han earned his Bachelor's in political science and
international relations from Yonsei University, a Master's in
public administration from Seoul National University, and a
Master's and a Doctorate in economics from York University in
the U.K. He has been a professor of economics at York
University, Cambridge University, and Seoul National
University for nearly 20 years, and he has lectured at
Harvard University and Tokyo University. He served
ministerial posts three times in as many different
administrations: Commerce and Industry Minister in the Roh
Tae-woo government; Deputy Prime Minister and Finance &
Economy Minister in the Kim Young-sam government; and Foreign
Minister in the Kim Dae-jung government. He also has worked
as a financial advisor to the Venezuelan government, to the
World Bank, and to the Jordanian government.


4. (SBU) He entered the bureaucracy in 1987 as the first
Chairman of the International Trade Committee of the Commerce
& Industry Ministry. He was then elected to the National
Assembly the following year from his hometown district on the
then ruling Democratic Justice Party ticket. Since then he
served in multiple posts in the Roh Tae-woo Administration as
an international trade expert.

5. (SBU) Subsequently in the Kim Young-sam Administration,
Han served as the ROK Ambassador to the United States,
Presidential Chief of Staff, and Deputy Prime Minister for
Finance & Economy, from which he resigned after only seven
months due to the Hanbo Steel bankruptcy case. After a brief
return to his professorial job, he tried to run in the 2000
general elections for the National Assembly, but lost the
Grand National Party nomination. He quickly left the party
and instead made a come-back by joining the minor Democratic
People's Party.

6. (SBU) In the Kim Dae-jung Administration, Han mainly
served in an international capacity, including as the Korea
Committee Chairman at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU),
ROK Foreign Minister, and the UN General Assembly President.
In the Roh Moo-hyun Administration, he served as the Chairman
of the 2014 Pyongchang Winter Olympic Games Bidding Committee
before being appointed the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change
in May 2007.


7. (SBU) Some possible points of controversy at the upcoming
confirmation hearings include his involvement with the Chun
Doo-hwan government in the early 1980s, and his image as an
opportunistic politician, given his frequent change in party
affiliations.

-----------------------------------
Economic Credentials Will Shape Job
-----------------------------------
8. (SBU) Given President-elect Lee's commitment to economic
growth and Han's vast experience, the incoming prime minister
will probably have an independent role in international and
government affairs, especially important national agenda
items such as energy and climate change, rather than working
as a presidential assistant like previous prime ministers.
In his statement immediately following the nomination, Han
said that he believed the worsening external economic
environment could be overcome by deregulation and more
private sector investment. As a dedicated advocate for
market economy, Han has long supported a complete economic
liberalization and deregulation to that end.

-------------------------------------
Appointment Helps Political Stability
-------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Han's nomination highlights President-elect Lee's
strictly businesslike approach. After over a month-long
search, the President-elect apparently considered Han to be
the one fit for multi-tasking in a global economic and
diplomatic environment. With both globally-oriented and
business-oriented mindset, Han was considered the most
qualified for the "resource diplomacy" with Russia, Africa,
and the Middle East, as Lee's government will likely try to
purse. The fact that Lee has no personal connections with
Han further shows the President-elect's focus on
professionalism.

10. (SBU) Han is distantly related to former GNP Chairperson
Park Geun-hye through marriage. (NOTE: Han's wife is the
niece of former First Lady Yook Young-soo, President Park
Chung-hee's wife. This makes Han a cousin by marriage to
Park Geun-hye. END NOTE.) This made him an all the more
attractive candidate, since the President-elect wanted to
solidify party unity within the GNP in the run-up to the
April 9 general elections by improving relations with the
Park faction.

11. (SBU) Another attraction was that Han hails from Gangwon
Province, and graduated from Yonsei University, both of which
would successfully offset Lee Myung-bak's regional support
base (Gyeongsang Province and Seoul) and Korea University
connections. Han's age was once pointed out as a weak point,
but his active presence demonstrated by his recent
chairmanship of the Pyongchang Winter Olympic Bidding
Committee rendered such concerns groundless.

12. (SBU) He is known to be gentle but also very precise at
work. He likes mountaineering. He is married to Hong So-ja,
former Vice President of the Korea Red Cross and current
President of the Korea University Female Alumni Association,
with one son and one daughter.

-------
Comment
-------

13. (SBU) President-elect Lee is said to have personally
held in-depth interviews with around 20 likely candidates for
Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers. This is
considered a radical departure from the customary practices
of making a decision based mainly on government documents.
Reactions of political parties sharply differed over the news
of Han's nomination. While the GNP remained positive and
hopeful, other parties pointed to Han's past record with the
authoritarian government, and indicated there would be a
strict screening process at his confirmation hearing. The
Transition Team plans to submit Han's confirmation motion to
the National Assembly today, and follow up with the naming of

the Blue House Chief of Staff soon, as well as with other
Blue House aides later this week.
STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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