Fkausa elects 1st woman president

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Fkausa elects 1st woman president

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Lee Jung-soon

As Korea has elected its first female president of the country, the Federation of Korean Associations USA (Fkausa), which represents some 2.5 million Koreans in the U.S., also elected its first female leader.

“The first generation of immigrants who arrived in the United States bearing the burden of a crumbling Korea in 1903 would have felt wretched,” said Lee Jung-soon, 64, who was elected last month as the 25th president of the 110-year-old Fkausa, which controls all the Korean associations in the United States.

“At that time, U.S. society did not perceive of Asians as humans,” she said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

“The fate of our country 110 years later is the difference between the sky and the ground. The overseas Koreans in the U.S. feel pride that Korea has produced a female president which the United States has not.”

She previously worked at the Malaysian Embassy in Seoul before meeting her Korean-American husband and immigrating to San Francisco in 1977. She said she had dreamed of being a politician.

She became the first female president of the Korean Community of San Francisco in 1999-2000. She will officially begin her two-year term as the federation’s president on July 1.

Compared to 1903, 110 years later, Lee said, “When I see Samsung smartphones that have swept the U.S. market and Hyundai cars speeding down U.S. highways, I feel pride. The activities of our golfers, figure skaters, baseball players are also amazing.”

Lee and some 380 leaders of Korean communities from 73 countries to represent some 7.2 million overseas Koreans around the world gathered at the four-day 2013 World Korean Community Leaders Convention, which kicked off at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul yesterday afternoon.

The convention, supported by the Overseas Koreans Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was established in 2000 when nearly 280 leaders from 47 countries attended.

Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo in an exclusive interview yesterday that she hoped that the convention “will contribute to the dialogue between the Korean community abroad and our home country.”

President Park Geun-hye attended the opening ceremony yesterday, as well as some 100 Koreans, including members of the ruling and opposition parties such as Hwang Woo-yea, chairman of the Saenuri Party and Kim Han-gill, chairman of the Democratic Party.

“I want to make a strong Republic of Korea that can confidently face the world,” Park stated in her congratulatory remarks.

“And in order to do so we need cooperation from our overseas Korean community,” requesting especially for their assistance in building a “Global Korean Network” and spreading Korea’s 5,000 years of history and culture abroad.

In her May summit with President Barack Obama, she spent time meeting the Korean community in each of the three cities she visited: New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

The convention this year puts an emphasis on Park’s “creative economy” as well as policies for Korean nationals living abroad, such as education of Koreans abroad and job security, and their role in the new government’s policies.

BY CHANG SE-JEONG, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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