Foreign Minister nominee Kang Kyung-wha said Sunday she is ready to help resolve North Korea’s nuclear issues by capitalizing on her yearslong experience at the UN, calling it a top priority.
In her first press availability following President Moon Jae-in’s nomination earlier in the day, Kang said she felt a “heavy weight on her shoulders” due to various foreign policy challenges faced by Seoul.
Foreign Minister nominee Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)
“Though I’ve never dealt with it directly, the North Korean nuclear issues have long remained a major issue for the world beyond the peninsula, which the UN also addresses often. Against the backdrop, I would like to contribute to them,” she said at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York before departing for Switzerland on business.
“I appreciate the trust and expectations the president gave and will do my best.”
Kang, who serves as special policy adviser to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said she plans to report to him on the nomination Monday and return home “within days.”
The announcement came as a surprise to the Foreign Ministry, as it broke away from the tradition in which the president would pick his top, male foreign policy adviser from his campaign, who is either a retired career diplomat or college professor, in general.
If approved by the National Assembly, the 62-year-old Kang will become the country’s first female foreign minister. She served in the ministry for several years including as director-general for international organizations and at Seoul’s mission to the UN, but never took the national exam for diplomatic service.
Her designation was met with mixed reactions within and outside the ministry. Most young diplomats pinned high hopes on her reasonable work style, charismatic leadership and potential support for work-family balance as a mother of three. Many senior officials, however, expressed concerns about her lack of experience in core bilateral affairs that have beleaguered Seoul’s diplomacy, such as North Korea, the alliance with the US and checkered ties with China and Japan.
Opposition lawmakers on Monday also criticized the administration’s selection despite controversy over her daughter’s dual citizenship and false resident registration, which are among the five disqualifiers Moon has openly specified himself for high officials.
Wary of the possible backlash, Cheong Wa Dae brought up the issues upon the announcement, noting Kang’s daughter has promised to relinquish her US citizenship.
“Though I’m not one of those who passed the diplomatic exam, and am a woman, I worked at the ministry for a long time and know of many senior and junior diplomats, and I guess they are the ones whom I’m supposed to lean on,” Kang said.
She also acknowledged her daughter’s dual citizenship and false resident registration, adding she will give detailed explanations during an upcoming parliamentary hearing.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)