Photo: Yoo Myung-hee. Credit: Twitter account of Yoo Myung-hee.
Yoo Myung-hee 유명희, the finalist for the top spot at the World Trade Organization, alongside Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, is a trailblazer among South Korea’s trade regulators. Born in 1967 in the industrial city of Ulsan 울산, Yoo attended Seoul National University 국립서울대학교 and Vanderbilt Law School. After passing the civil service exam in 1991, she became the first woman trade expert to join the then-Ministry of Trade and Industry 통상산업부 in 1995, and the first woman to reach the top level of the Ministry except for the political appointees. She also had a brief stint as a press secretary for the Park Geun-hye 박근혜 administration.
Yoo almost didn’t join the Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration. She tendered her resignation in November 2018, as she did not expect further promotion as her husband Jeong Tae-ok 정태옥 was a conservative legislator. The Blue House 청와대, however, rejected her resignation and instead appointed her as the Minister of Trade 통상교섭본부장, a vice-ministerial position. (Jeong lost his re-election bid in the Assembly elections in April.) Yoo has said she does not discuss politics or policies at home.