Buoyed by Korea's Friendliness, EU Official Says, 'Au Revoir'

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Buoyed by Korea's Friendliness, EU Official Says, 'Au Revoir'

Jacques Beyssade's four years in Korea were most productive. He came to Korea as the chief executive officer/country manager of Credit Lyonnais Korea and became the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea. This September he is to leave Korea for Credit Lyonnais New York after finishing his term at the chamber of commerce. He told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition that he is excited about starting a new life in New York, but at the same time he is sorry to leave Korea.

IHT-JAI: What kept you busy in Korea?

Beyssade: Besides being a banker, I held a number of positions including the one at the European Union Chamber of Commerce, which kept me busy socially. My titles included not only CEO and country manager of Credit Lyonnais Korea and the chairman of the chamber of commerce, but also the honorary chairman of Seoul French School. My vice chairmanships include the Foreign Bankers Group, Seoul Rotary Club and the Korea International Business Council. I am a board member of Allianz First Life Insurance Co., the French Chamber of Commerce in Korea, the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board and Kwanak International Finance Forum. I'm also the advisory board member at the Foreign Trade Advisor to France and a member of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council for the Mayor of Seoul. Through all these public duties along with my family duties - I'm married with three young children - I got to meet so many interesting friends from all over the world.

IHT-JAI: Was Korea the first country in Asia for you?

Beyssade: Yes. I had no idea about Korea before coming here. When the decision was made in Paris, I went straight to the nearby bookstore to find a guidebook about Korea. There were so many books about Japan, but there was only one book about Korea, and it was more than four years old. Upon reading the book, I thought Korea sounded interesting, but it turned out to be better and more interesting when I came here. For those who have never been to Korea, it is much better than what they hear outside Korea. Although Seoul is not an attractive city with much pollution and traffic, it is rapidly changing, and there is much to see in the countryside. I had a chance to fly on a helicopter from Ulsan to Pusan and saw how beautiful the country was. Not many people living in the city realize that Korea is made of 90 percent nature.

IHT-JAI: What spots do you recommend visitors see?

Beyssade: Hongdo in South Cholla province. It's a gorgeous rocky island, much like that of Dokdo. There's nothing much to do there except enjoying the nature, so you need to go with a person you love. My family were the only foreigners there when we visited. But, we couldn't eat the food. I guess even to ordinary Koreans the spices there were too strong; even the tourists from Seoul couldn't eat the food.

IHT-JAI: Any final projects before taking off?

Beyssade: On last May 20, the chamber formed the European Union Chamber of Commerce Korea Foundation, whose members include both European representatives and Korean dignitaries such as lawmakers Kim Min-seok and Jung Mong-joon. The foundation was created to help promote ties between Korea and European Union countries, and we donated 200,000 soccer balls to North Korean children. Next, we would like to do something for South Korea. I want to help improve the social status of Korean women. From my experience with Korean female employees I worked with, I felt that women in Korea are a great resource, but are grossly underutilized. I had one female employee who was considered for promotion. The Korean male staff were reluctant, however, and said, "She's not Korean enough." So her not being "Korean enough" was the ultimate mistake. They meant to tell me she didn't behave as a traditional Korean woman should. The pressure women get from male counterparts make the entire society ineffectual. To help talented women overcome their difficulties in Korean society, we may need to find role models and encourage the rest to follow. Perhaps I should remain as a member of the foundation even if I don't live in Korea.

by Inēs Cho

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