Yoon names PPP lawmaker Chung as chief of staff

April 22, 2024

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday named five-term ruling party lawmaker Chung Jin-suk as his new chief of staff and a former lawmaker as his new senior political secretary, the first personnel replacements since the party’s crushing defeat in the April 10 parliamentary elections.

Yoon personally announced the nominations at the presidential office, the first time he made a personnel announcement to the press since taking office in May 2022.

“(Chung) has good relations with people across the political aisle,” he said. “So I expect him to carry out his duties well by communicating smoothly not only with Yongsan staff but also with the Cabinet, the ruling and opposition parties, the press, and across the civic sector.”

Yongsan is often used as shorthand for the presidential office, as it is the name of the district where the office is located.

Yoon returned to the briefing room later in the day to announce his pick of former ruling party Rep. Hong Chul-ho as his new senior presidential secretary for political affairs.

“I listened to what many people in our party said, and they said (Hong’s) communication and social skills are outstanding, so I took their recommendation,” he said. “More than anything, I think he is someone who will listen closely to people’s voices in the field, as a self-made businessman.”

Hong is a two-term former lawmaker and founder of roasted-chicken franchise Goobne Chicken.

Chung of the People Power Party (PPP) is known to be close to the president and equipped with the necessary political expertise, having worked as senior presidential secretary for political affairs for former President Lee Myung-bak.

Yoon recently met Chung and offered him the position, according to political sources.

Chung will replace Lee Kwan-sup, who has submitted his resignation along with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and most senior presidential secretaries to take responsibility for the PPP’s crushing defeat in the April 10 parliamentary elections. Hong will replace Han Oh-seop.

The new chief of staff began his career as a reporter for the Hankook Ilbo newspaper, where he spent 15 years covering politics, working as a correspondent in Washington, and writing editorials.

He first won election to the National Assembly in 2000 in the central city of Gongju, 119 kilometers south of Seoul, and was reelected four more times. Additionally, he served at the presidential office and in senior positions within the party and at the National Assembly, including as vice speaker.

Chung, who stood next to Yoon as his nomination was announced, took the podium afterward and vowed to do whatever he can to help the president communicate better and carry out “politics of unity.”

“The political landscape where the ruling party is a minority and the opposition is a majority concerns me and I expect difficulties,” he said. “I felt that it was my responsibility to help the Yoon Suk Yeol government and help the president at this difficult time.”

Hong also spoke after the president, saying the elections “confirmed the public sentiment” and the government will have to “fill the areas that fell short.”

During the two briefings, Yoon took a total of four questions from reporters, the first time he did so since November 2022, when his daily morning Q&A sessions with reporters were suspended following a clash between a presidential official and a reporter.

In response to the questions, Yoon said he plans to discuss people’s livelihood issues when he holds his first-ever meeting with opposition leader Lee Jae-myung in the near future.

He also said it will take some time to name a new prime minister.