Philippines accustomed to women as diplomatsSusan Castrence, 65, the new Philippine ambassador to South Korea, is a veteran career diplomat with 46 years of experience. Korea is her seventh overseas posting. Since she began in the foreign ministry in 1960, Ms. Castrence has worked in major cities around the world, including Bangkok, Sydney, Washington, Osaka and Toronto. After serving three years as an assistant secretary of the office of Asean affairs in the Philippines, Ms. Castrence volunteered to come to South Korea.
“I prefer Asian posts. Because of my work in Asean, I would like very much to be involved further in work in this area. This is where the action is going on right now,” she said.
Her interest in the “Korean wave” also attracted her to Korea. “In the past, there were concerns that Filipinos were hooked on American Hollywood movies. Now it is reversed. Our people look forward to watching Korean drama series.”
The Philippines and Korea have maintained relations since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1949. “We were involved in the fight for democracy and freedom during the Korea War. The Philippines sent about 7,000 soldiers to Korea and about 100 Filipino soldiers were killed during the war,” she said.
She also appreciated the help Korea has given the Philippines in terms of development assistance and investment. “We hope the Philippines can also achieve the kind of progress that you achieved in such a short time.” Currently about 50,000 Koreans reside in the Philippines and around 40,000 Filipinos live in Korea.
Asked about her experiences as a female in the diplomatic world, she said, “We are not conscious of gender in the Philippines because women hold all these roles in government and society.” About 40 percent of Filipino diplomats are women and 28 out of 84 posts are headed by women. In addition, five of 14 Supreme Court justices and five of 23 senators are women.
“In Asean, the Philippine delegations were almost always composed of women,” she said, adding, “As women, we have a way of talking and dealing with problems that helps achieve our work or goal.”
She is learning Korean in the goal of soon bargaining with Korean storeowners.
by Park Hyun-young