S. Korea welcomes Senate confirmation of Goldberg as U.S. ambassador to Seoul

May 6, 2022

 South Korea on Friday welcomed the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominee for the new U.S. ambassador to Seoul, vowing “active support” for his mission to strengthen the two countries’ alliance.

The Senate voted Thursday (local time) to confirm Philip Goldberg, a career diplomat, as the new ambassador to fill the vacancy left by Harry Harris, who stepped down in January last year when Biden took office.

“Our government welcomes the Senate approval of Ambassador Philip Goldberg,” Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “We plan to give active support to help the ambassador smoothly assume his post and actively contribute to strengthening the South Korea-U.S. alliance.”

It remains uncertain when Goldberg will arrive here, given a set of remaining procedures, including wrapping up his ambassadorship in Colombia and completing the official appointment process.

But speculation has arisen that he could come here before the upcoming summit between President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and Biden to help prepare for their first in-person talks slated to take place in Seoul on May 21.

Goldberg, who had served as ambassador to Colombia since 2019, is a “Career Ambassador,” the highest diplomatic rank in U.S. foreign service.

He has undertaken various key posts at the State Department, including ambassadorship in the Philippines and Bolivia and the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.

The ambassador also worked as coordinator for the Implementation of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1874 on North Korea from 2009-2010 — a period when he built his expertise on the recalcitrant regime.

The coordinator position was to ensure the enforcement of sanctions slapped in the aftermath of the North’s second underground nuclear test in 2009.

His past dealings with those sanctions created an image of him as a hard-liner on Pyongyang.

During last month’s Senate confirmation hearing, Goldberg referred to the North as a “rogue regime” and advocated for the North’s “comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID).”

The Biden administration has refrained from using the expression CVID in an apparent move to pave the way for reengagement with the North, as the regime has balked at the term.

But Goldberg is also known to have shown a flexible stance in 2009 on the possible resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast and its border city of Kaesong, saying the resumption is unrelated to UNSC sanctions.

The ambassador earned a Bachelor of Science degree magna cum laude in Journalism from Boston University.