(ATTN: MODIFIES headline; UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS photo, bylines)
By Lee Chi-dong and Kim Na-young
SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in has picked Chung Eui-yong, former director of national security at Cheong Wa Dae, as his new foreign minister, Moon's office announced hours ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration.
He also nominated Hwang Hee, a ruling Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker, as culture minister and Kwon Chil-seung, another DP lawmaker, as SMEs and startups minister in a partial Cabinet reshuffle, according to Chung Man-ho, senior presidential secretary for public communication.
If appointed, Chung will replace Kang Kyung-wha, the longest serving minister of the Moon government. Kang is among the initial members of Moon's Cabinet.
Chung, formerly a career diplomat, had worked as Moon's top security adviser for three years since the launch of his administration in May 2017.
He played a key role in Seoul-Washington coordination during the once-hectic round of summit-driven diplomacy aimed at denuclearizing Korea and bringing lasting peace.
"Serving as director of national security for three years, the nominee led consultations and coordination on all pending issues between South Korea and the United States. He was also deeply involved in such issues as the Korean Peninsula denuclearization and North Korea-U.S. negotiations," the senior secretary said in a statement.
Moon's choice of Chung as Seoul's new top diplomat is viewed as reflecting a push for revitalizing the Korea peace process especially on the occasion of the launch of the Biden administration.
In his New Year's address, Moon vowed to make a "last-ditch" effort for the transformation of Washington-Pyongyang relations and inter-Korean ties in the remainder of his tenure to finish in May 2022.
Chung became a lawmaker in 2004 after working at the country's embassies in the U.S. and Israel and the diplomatic mission in Geneva.
Meanwhile, the other nominee -- Hwang and Kwon -- are known as pro-Moon politicians who are well versed in the president's policy vision. The two-term lawmakers worked with Moon at Cheong Wa Dae under the Roh Moo-hyun administration in the 2000s.
Some observers construed Moon's picks as representing his inclination toward a close-knit Cabinet in order to gain fresh momentum in his presidency amid a steady decline in his approval ratings of late.
Kwon's nomination came as Minister Park Young-sun tendered her resignation in a bid to run in the April 7 by-election for Seoul mayorship.
The nominees face confirmation hearings at the National Assembly, the dates of which have yet to be set.
It was Moon's third partial Cabinet shake-up since early December last year. Half of the total 18 Cabinet members, except for the prime minister, would be affected in the series of recent shake-ups.
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