Impact Player: Lim Sung-nam

Informing audiences about key policy makers in issue areas of importance to U.S.-Korea relations.

Who is he?

Lim Sung-nam has been the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs since his appointment on October 2015. On Tuesday, June 6, 2017, the new President Moon Jae-in asked that Lim continue to serve in his current position as First Vice Minister. Prior, he served for two years as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2013-2015).

Lim is a career diplomat with over three decades of service, having joined the Foreign Ministry in 1981. Before becoming ROK ambassador to the UK, he served in various high-ranking positions including as special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs (2011 – 2013) and deputy chief of mission (DCM) at the ROK Embassy in China (2009 – 2011). He concurrently served as deputy head of the ROK delegation to the Six-Party Talks and director general of the North Korean Nuclear Affairs Bureau with the rank of ambassador (2007 – 2009).

Over the course of his career, Lim has focused extensively on the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea and has held several posts related to the United States. These positions include: senior coordinator for ROK-U.S. Security Cooperation (2005-2006); director of North America Division I (2002); and director of North America Division III (2001 – 2002). He was also posted to two overseas assignments in the U.S., as political counsellor (2002-2005) and as second secretary (1988-1993) at the ROK Embassy in the United States. He also served as first secretary at the Korean Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York (1995 – 2000).

Ambassador Lim received a B.A. in International Relations from Seoul National University (1981). He received his first M.A. in Political Science from Seoul National University (1984) and his second M.A. in Political Science from Harvard University (1987). Lim speaks fluent Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. He was a visiting research scholar at the University of Tokyo from 2008 to 2009.

Why has he been in the news?

On June 6, 2017 President Moon Jae-in appointed five vice ministers as well as one senior economic advisor to serve in the new government. In addition, he called on Lim Sung-nam to continue to serve in his position as First Vice Minister. These key appointments were announced as Moon seeks to form a new administration since taking office on May 10. Due to the lack of a transition period following the 2017 election, President Moon has only succeeded in nominating six out of 18 ministers so far to form his cabinet.

What can we expect from him?

Lim is an exceptionally well-versed career diplomat. He has a wide-range of experience working with the United States, China, and North Korea, making him one of the few diplomats in the foreign ministry with in-depth knowledge of all three countries. His experience will prove invaluable going forward as South Korea works to maintain a fine balance in its relationship between the U.S. and China, especially in light of controversies over THAAD. Furthermore, his experience in negotiating with North Korea will prove useful in helping to carry out President Moon’s promise of seeking dialogue with Pyongyang while at the same time maintaining pressure and sanctions to encourage the country to denuclearize.

Photo credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

Heajin Kim

Mi Yeon Kim