[Viewpoint]Koreans in the worldKoreans have had a love-hate relationship with the rest of the world. Koreans have lost their country many times, long suffering under aggressive neighboring powers. But the world helped Korea find freedom and survive the communist invasion. The United States aided war-torn Korea out of devastation. And since then the world has served as the market for Korea’s economic development.
Throughout history, many Koreans have spread around the world. Some were unfortunate while others were lucky. The unfortunate ones were forced to move or drafted to fight in freezing cold and had to endure a series of tragedies. The lucky ones crossed the Pacific and learned about Western culture and civilization in the New World. Young Koreans gritted their teeth, studied hard and returned home with doctoral degrees from American universities. They created five-year economic development plans and taught students at universities.
Many chose not to return but to remain in the United States. The students, immigrants and second-generation Korean-Americans hoped to realize the American Dream. Many succeeded in their fields. Lee Chong-moon, chairman and CEO of AmBex Venture Group, is the Bill Gates of the Korean-American community. He gave jobs to many people and donated more than $20 million to charity.
In finance, Sohn Sung-won, professor of economics at California State University, Channel Islands, served as executive vice president at Wells Fargo Bank.
Jay Chang-jun Kim had served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Harold Hongju Koh became assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, the highest federal government position attained by an ethnic Korean. Currently, he is the dean of the Yale Law School, one of the eight prestigious Ivy League universities.
Golfers Pak Se-ri and Choi Kyoung-ju, Major League Baseball pitcher Park Chan-ho, and sopranos Sumi Jo, Shin Young-ok and Hong Hye-kyung have all realized their dreams in America.
The 21st century began a new chapter in the history of Korea’s relationship with the world. Korea emerged as a major economic power, and Koreans made their names internationally. The late Dr. Lee Jong-wook, former director general of the World Health Organization, left a great impression in the hearts of humanity. He died in July 2006 while passionately leading the WHO. The UN agency remembers Dr. Lee as “a man of action,” calling him a world leader in the fight against two of the greatest challenges to international health and development: tuberculosis and vaccine-preventable diseases in children.
Three months after Dr. Lee’s death in Geneva, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon became secretary general of the United Nations in October 2006. A man who grew up in a divided land is now in charge of mending divisions and discord in the world.
Today many Koreans live global lives. While our ancestors might have experienced tragedy, their lucky and aggressive descendants have created a positive relationship between Korea and the world.
In this new chapter, we find Dr. Jim Yong Kim’s name. He is the first Asian-American to become the president of an Ivy League institution. If Dartmouth College was looking for a mainstream Caucasian with a big network and fund-raising skills, Dr. Kim would not even have been considered. The school says the appointment was made because “Jim Yong Kim embodies the ideals of learning, innovation and service that lie at the heart of Dartmouth’s mission.” Dr. Kim led the fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in underdeveloped countries. Just like WHO’s late Director General Lee Jong-wook, he demonstrated leadership in international service.
Dr. Kim’s appointment is a momentous event for Koreans because of what a president of an Ivy League university can do. He is not going to be limited to his individual success; he will be able to educate future leaders of the world.
Dr. Kim says, “What I want to do is train an army of leaders to engage with the problems of the world, who will believe the possibilities are limitless, that there’s nothing they can’t do.”
And his predecessors trained Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The army is not limited to America. The army marches toward the dreams of humanity. And the song they march to is the song sung by Dr. Lee Jong-wook and Dr. Jim Yong Kim.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin