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Yoon revives policy chief of staff position, reshuffles all senior secretaries

Outgoing secretaries rumored to join Cabinet or parliamentary elections race

Nov. 30, 2023 - 11:00 By Son Ji-hyoung
From top left, clockwise: Park, Chun-sup, nominee of senior secretary for economic affairs; Lee Kwan-sup, nominee of chief presidential secretary for policy; Lee Do-woon, nominee of senior secretary for public relations; Hwang Sang-moo, nominee of senior secretary for civil society; Han O-sub, nominee for senior secretary for political affairs; and Jang Sang-yoon, nominee of senior secretary for social affairs. (Presidential office)

President Yoon Suk Yeol revived the presidential office for policy which he ditched last year and replaced all of his senior secretaries, effective on Monday, the presidential office announced Thursday.

Yoon promoted Lee Kwan-sup, the incumbent senior presidential secretary in charge of state affairs coordination, to become the first chief presidential secretary for policy in Yoon's term. Yoon abolished the post to reduce the team of presidential advisers upon his inauguration in May 2022.

Lee will be one of the three highest-ranking employees in Yoon's office, along with Chief of Staff Kim Dae-ki and National Security Office Director Cho Tae-yong.

Lee was appointed senior presidential secretary for state affairs coordination in August 2022.

The revival of the post is aimed at "enhancing the coordination with the Cabinet and the (ruling) political party to speed up the policy implementation, and overseeing the economic policy to care for ordinary people's livelihoods," Kim Eun-hye, senior presidential secretary in charge of public relations, said in a briefing at Yoon's office in Seoul.

Kim added Yoon's office will also introduce a presidential senior secretary role dedicated to science and technology in the near future. According to Kim, the nomination process for the new role is ongoing, but it is likely to wrap up no later than early next year.

Yoon's office has six senior secretaries, each dedicated to political affairs, civil society, public relations, economic affairs, social affairs and state affairs coordination.

With the addition of a new senior secretary role dedicated to science and technology, however, the number of senior secretaries will remain at six after the looming reshuffle, as the senior secretary position for state affairs coordination will be abolished.

Policy Chief of Staff Lee will supervise the teams led by the three senior presidential secretaries in charge of economic affairs, social affairs, and science and technology-related affairs. Chief of Staff Kim will oversee affairs related to politics, civil society and public relations.

Lee Kwan-sup, nominee for Yoon's Policy Chief of Staff (Yonhap)

Later on Thursday, the presidential offices announced a broader reshuffle of the senior presidential aides.

Han O-sub, chief of the situation room for state affairs at Yoon's office, was named new senior presidential secretary for political affairs dedicated to the relationship with the National Assembly, replacing Lee Jin-bok.

Hwang Sang-moo, a former reporter and news presenter who formerly anchored a prime-time news program at the Korea Broadcasting System, will take on the role of senior presidential secretary for civil society in place of Kang Seung-kyu. Hwang was formerly a public relations adviser for Yoon's election campaign. Hwang will be tasked with Yoon's relationship with civic groups and religious groups.

Yoon's spokesperson Lee Do-woon was promoted to become the new senior secretary for public relations to take the place of Kim Eun-hye.

Park Chun-sup, a member of the Monetary Policy Board at South Korea's Bank of Korea, will take on Choi Sang-mok's role as the senior secretary for economic affairs, whereas Vice Minister of Education Jang Sang-yoon will replace Ahn Sang-hoon to become the new senior secretary for social affairs and reinvigorate the Yoon administration's reform drive in the field of education and pension.

Most of the outgoing senior secretaries are anticipated to take on other key roles, such as Cabinet members or members of the parliament. Less than five months remain ahead of the parliamentary elections.

Yoon reportedly told the Cabinet during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that "some of the Cabinet members here will leave their posts" because of "their outstanding performance." His comment is an apparent reference to calls for them to stand in the upcoming parliamentary elections.