Foreign Ministry marks diplomatic retirements

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Foreign Ministry marks diplomatic retirements

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a reception Tuesday to mark the retirement of 21 diplomats over age 60, veteran envoys who have helped to boost bilateral ties and raise Korea’s status overseas.

The event was hosted at the ministry’s headquarters in central Seoul and saw the retirements of veteran foreign affairs officials like Kim Han-soo, the former ambassador to Cambodia, also known as the pioneer of free trade agreements (FTAs) in Korea.

Kim, a trade-negotiation expert, started his government career in the Trade Ministry before joining the Foreign Ministry in 1998 and raising the need for FTAs.

He participated in the Korea-Chile FTA, Seoul’s first free trade deal, as well as in other free trade pacts with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), India and the European Union.

“When I first started out, I had just one subordinate in the process to plan for free trade agreements,” Kim said. “When talk over FTAs first came up, there were branches that said, ‘It’s a good idea, but please leave us out.’”

“Now,” he continued, “when I see the vast domain cultivated by Korea in the area of FTAs, I think it is simply an honor that I was able to begin such tasks.”

Other retiring officials included diplomat Park Dong-won, formerly the ambassador to Paraguay, who has been charged with Central and South America for over two decades.

She was appointed to Paraguay in August 2010, the first female top envoy in Central or South America. She is also the fifth Korean woman to serve as a top envoy to an overseas embassy.

She has been recognized for her efforts to promote better ties between the two nations and was awarded the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit in 2013 by the Paraguayan government.

“When I first began working as a diplomat in South America, there were many who didn’t even know the country of Korea. However, recently, as I walked the streets of Paraguay, there were people who asked, ‘Isn’t that the Korean ambassador?’ and would approach me,” she recalled. “When I see the change in our national status, I feel the merit of having worked as a diplomat.”

Huh Chul, the former ambassador for global counterterrorism cooperation, on the other hand, joined the Foreign Ministry later than his peers. He has spent 34 years as a diplomat.

Talented in English composition, Huh was generally posted in the United States, in cities including Washington, New York and Chicago.

“When I began my life as a foreign affairs official, I was just ecstatic to find traces of Korea abroad, but now, wherever I go, I am astonished by the happy sound of those calling out, ‘Korea is wonderful!’” he said.

BY YOO JEE-HYE, AN HYO-SEONG [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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