A Film Fan, France's New Ambassador Takes Front Row Seat

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A Film Fan, France's New Ambassador Takes Front Row Seat

Francois Descoueyte is the new French ambassador to Korea. Mr. Descoueyte is formerly the ambassador to Uganda and the inspector of foreign affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France.

Mr. Descoueyte and his wife, Christine, have two children, Arian, 2, and Alexander, 4 months. The couple also have a husky named Remington.

Mr. Descoueyte recently talked with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition about his current post, which he began June 12.

IHT-JAI: Is this your first visit to Korea?

Descoueyte: I came to Korea about 20 years ago. While I was learning karate, the Japanese martial art, I became interested in Buddhism and so I visited Haeinsa, one of the most celebrated temples in South Korea. Ten years ago, I visited Korea once again when I was the head of International Affairs, French Planning Commission in France. Then I was in Tokyo from 1977 to 1981 and in Osaka and Kobe from 1986 to 1988. In Kyoto, there was quite a large Korean community, so I guess that was the first time I encountered a Korean community there. Koreans were very successful in Japan even then.

IHT-JAI: Whom have you met since you arrived?

Descoueyte: I've met everyone, starting with the press and TV stations, from government sectors to the private sector, followed by universities and arts and science insititutes. On the day I arrived, I attended Korea's first French film festival. Recently I met with filmmakers, both French and Korean, during the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.

IHT-JAI: Are you familiar with Korean films?

Descoueyte: Just before I came back to Korea there were two major Korean film events in Paris. The Restrospective of Korean Films and the Young Filmmakers Festival. At the Young Filmmakers Festival, I saw "JSA." It's a very good film and is hugely successful in France now. I met the movie's young director Park Chan-wook at the festival. I think watching a film is a good way to get to know each other's culture and ideas, because you can overcome language barriers and can see images. In fact, Korean films are an emerging fashion in France. French people are now fed up with Chinese and Japanese culture as they have been around since the Enlightenment. Diplomatic relations were established between Korea and France in 1887, but diplomats aren't enough for a real exchange of culture. The exchange of real human contact began in the 1950s. About 1,000 French soldiers a year came to Korea for three and half years. and it was the French soldiers serving in the 2nd Division during the war who appreciated the exchange of culture and spoke about the heart of the Korean people even after they returned to France. Soon they will be visiting Korea to attend the opening of a momument dedicated to those who fought the war.

IHT-JAI: Where does France stand on North Korean issue?

Descoueyte: We insist on inter-Korean dialogue. There is no one who can understand North Korea better than South Koreans and vice versa. France has tried to address a number of issues, number one, the human rights issue, number two, we'd like to access the most needy people to get humanitarian aide, number three, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and finally we'd like to support inter-Korean dialogues. For North Korea to work with South Korea, it is important that North Korea catches up with South Korea and grow as fast as South Korea. And the embassy is only a tool, which can be useful to promote peace. It's like if you have a car, where do you go at what speed?

IHT-JAI: What do you think your mission in Korea will be?

Descoueyte: The sky is the limit! Brand new images of Korea have been emerging since the Olympics in 1988 and soon the World Cup. There has been economic investment from the French government and active joint ventures between the two countries. There are 10 to 15 direct flights every week that connect France and Korea, in addition to Internet connections. France and Korea have politically excellent relations now. Not only do our presidents share high esteem for each other, but there is also great contact between ministries and exchanges of science and technology. I want to establish and boost relations between members of parliament, which include all party memebers of both countries, and organize a meeting in the fall.

by Inēs Cho

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