[FOUNTAIN]Hughes must envy KoreaShe’s the closest person to the president in the entire history of the United States and the most influential woman ever able to participate in any White House meeting. Is it Mrs. Bush? Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice? No. It’s Karen Hughes, an undersecretary of public affairs at the State Department. Although she is not a household name to Koreans, this description of her is supported by leading U.S. media organizations.
Ms. Hughes is one of President George W. Bush’s key advisors from his early political days. Along with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, she is one of the main people responsible for transforming Mr. Bush into a governor and eventually the president of the United States. She made a name for herself by winning four straight elections for Mr. Bush, and quickly became more than just a communications director. Only after Mr. Bush received Ms. Hughes’ word that she would stay by his side did he announce his candidacy for president in 2000. Co-author of Mr. Bush’s autobiography, “A Charge to Keep,” she successfully trasformed the president’s image from a hard-liner to a warm-hearted conservative.
When Ms. Hughes returned to the White House as undersecretary of state last September after a three-year hiatus, she was given a special mission: improve America’s faltering image in international society. She was asked to appease the anti-American sentiment that had been spreading through the world after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Ms. Hughes was also to market American values ― freedom and democracy ― as the doctrine of President Bush’s second term in office.
Ms. Hughes currently roams the world ―from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and around Central and South America. At events that might enhance America’s image, she is always present and works to meet with leading figures. In short, she is America’s worldwide ambassador at large. Upon finishing her tour of Middle East countries soon after taking office, Ms. Hughes said that she would consider the trip a success if she could keep in touch with just one or two locals after she left a country. The Middle East, however, is keeping alert because they believe that her smile could be disguising the true intentions of the US.
Korea’s overseas image is at an all time high these days. It can be attributed to soft power. This is a good opportunity for us to speed up public relations and cultural diplomacy overseas and overhaul the organizations related to international affairs. It’s just like the saying, “Strike while the iron is hot.”
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.