Diplomatic Academy prepares for new era

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Diplomatic Academy prepares for new era

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High-ranking government officials take a commemorative photo yesterday at the opening ceremony of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seocho District, southern Seoul. The academy will replace the current foreign service examination system and train and educate Korean diplomats. The first crop will be dispatched in 2014. [YONHAP]


The Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KDNA), which will train and foster the talents of a new generation of Korean diplomats set to be dispatched by 2014, held its opening ceremony yesterday at its campus located in Seocho District, southern Seoul.

After much legislative debate in the National Assembly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade established the academy last year to replace the current rote-based High Diplomatic Service Examination system that has been in place for the past 47 years.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said yesterday at the opening ceremony, “The Korea National Diplomatic Academy will attract the best diplomatic talents who will be trained into individuals actively and strategically able to strengthen the capacity of diplomacy in light of the international environment of the 21st century.

“The KNDA, unlike the existing High Diplomatic Service Examination, will be able to select individuals with varied experiences,” the foreign minister further said, “and entrance exams will be based on evaluation of cumulative diplomatic competence rather than on the memorization of facts.”

The current recruitment system has long been criticized for producing unqualified diplomats who lack language skills and other traits such as negotiation abilities and quick judgment.

All officials dispatched by the new academy, said the foreign minister, will have expertise in at least two languages, one region and a functional field, such as international law, foreign affairs, trade or security.

The JoongAng Ilbo held an interview with Kim Byung-kook, 53, chancellor of the KNDA.

He stated that the academy will look at the Central European University as a model, a graduate-level school in Budapest, where 40 percent of its professors visit from 30 different countries.

Though the new curriculum has not been finalized, students will engage in many case studies with experienced professors, said Kim.

The new system will begin operating after the final round of High Diplomatic Service Examinations scheduled for the first half of 2013.

The foreign ministry will pick its first batch of students in early 2013. The academy plans to accept and train 60 nominees, of which 40 will be recruited to the foreign ministry.

The class will be evaluated through a three-stage process involving foreign language tests, aptitude tests, essay writing and interviews.

The class will enroll in a one-year, three-semester program at the academy in September 2013.

The ones who perform the best there will be appointed as fifth-level foreign affairs officials. The academy will be an affiliate of the ministry.

“At one point, we reviewed the possibility of creating a policy to award a master’s degree to each student,” said the chancellor, addressing the concern of those 20 students who wouldn’t receive positions as diplomats.

But Kim said that “like the European Union, there need to be specialists in areas such as free trade agreements and the G20,” and they will help the students enter different ministries and international organizations so that they can contribute the skills they have acquired at the academy.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, who attended the ceremony, stated, “The academy, through advanced education and training, will cultivate top-notch diplomats, and, through high-quality research and development, advance our foreign policy.”

The KDNA plans to establish itself as a research and training institution and a foreign-policy generating think tank.

By Lee Won-jean, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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