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Name: Choi Young-jin
Current Position: previous Ambassador

The key U.S. Asian ally of South Korea has named a new ambassador to the United States who has served before in the U.S. Born March 29, 1948, Choi Young-jin earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, in March 1973, and later earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in International Political Science at the University of Paris I, in 1980 and 1985, respectively. Before earning his undergraduate degree, Choi studied medicine at the Severance Medical College in South Korea for four years.


Choi joined the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August 1972, having passed the diplomatic service exam the previous May. Early career postings included service as second secretary at the South Korean Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, starting in November 1976; as second secretary at the embassy in Paris, France, starting in August 1978; as director of the Ministry’s Cultural Affairs Division, starting in August 1981; and as counselor at the South Korean embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, starting in February 1983. In April 1986, Choi was named director of the Ministry’s International Organizations Division, where he dealt mainly with non-governmental organizations until January 1987, when he was made aide to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.


Choi’s first posting to the U.S. came in December 1987, when he was named counselor at the embassy in Washington, DC, an appointment he kept for four years. Choi then served a series of Seoul-based jobs, including senior coordinator for Policy Development at the Ministry’s Office of Policy Planning, starting in May 1991; director-general of the Ministry’s International Economic Affairs Bureau, starting in December 1993; and starting in May 1995, deputy executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, which was founded in March 1995 by the United States, South Korea, and Japan to implement the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreement that froze North Korea’s indigenous nuclear power program. His duties included overseeing a $5 billion project to construct two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea.


In May 1998, Choi went to work for the United Nations as assistant secretary-general for Planning and Support in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, responsible for overseeing planning and support for 17 peacekeeping operations, including those in Kosovo, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone and Congo.


He returned to South Korean government service in February 2000 as deputy minister for Policy Planning and International Organizations. Two years later, in February 2002, Choi was named ambassador to Austria and to Slovenia, and Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, a posting he had only until April 2003, when he became chancellor of the Ministry’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.


In January 2004, Choi was appointed vice minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, followed in May 2005 with an appointment as South Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, a position he filled until 2007, when he took an appointment as a resident diplomat scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.


In October 2007, U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, also of South Korea, appointed Choi Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, mandated to certify the Ivorian presidential election of fall 2010 and defuse the political crisis which arose in its aftermath.


Choi has written numerous articles and books, including L’Asie de l’Est et le Rapprochement Sino-Américain (East Asia and the China-U.S. rapprochement) (1987) and East and West: Understanding the Rise of China (2010). Choi is married and has two sons.

-Matt Bewig


Official Curriculum Vitae

Truth is the Starting Point: An Interview with Choi Young-jin (by Michael Fleshman, Africa Renewal)

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