Kang Kyung-wha in 2018
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
|Assumed office |
18 June 2017
|Prime Minister||Lee Nak-yeon|
|Preceded by||Yun Byung-se|
|Born||7 April 1955|
Seoul, South Korea
|Alma mater||Yonsei University|
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
|Revised Romanization||Gang Gyeong-hwa|
Kang Kyung-wha (born 7 April 1955) is the Foreign Minister of South Korea, the first woman nominated for and appointed to the position. She is also the first Korean woman to hold a high-level position in the United Nations. Previously, Kang was the first non-exam-taker to become a director-general in the ministry. Moreover, she is the first South Korean foreign minister to join the official South Korean delegation for the inter-Korean summit as well as to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
Early life and education
Kang was born in Seoul, South Korea. Her father, born in Pyongyang, North Korea, was a famous announcer of South Korea's Korean Broadcasting System as well as a member of its second board of directors. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. following her father's career at Voice of America in 1964 and came back to Seoul after two years.
Kang attended Ewha Girls' High School in Seoul. She graduated from Yonsei University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Diplomacy. She obtained an M.A. in mass communication and a Ph.D. defending a doctoral thesis on intercultural communication from University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States.
In the beginning of her career, Kang worked for the Korean Broadcasting System - just like her father - as a producer of English Service Division of Radio Korea. As an associate professor, she lectured at Cleveland State University, Ohio and Sejong University, Seoul. Between and after her career in universities, she assisted several Speakers of the National Assembly of South Korea on global issues in the fields of human rights, women's advancement and parliamentary diplomacy as Secretary for International Relations and an interpreter.
She was also active in women’s organizations in Korea, serving as the spokeswoman of the Korean Women’s NGO Committee at the Beijing Conference in 1995, a member of International Relations Committee of Korean National Council of Women, and a director of Korean Institute for Women and Politics.
In 1990s Kang was the English voice of Seoul subway system.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
In 1998 Kang joined the Korean Foreign Service, without ever having passed the Foreign Service Exam, as the acting Senior Research Officer of Foreign Ministry's Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. In 1999 she was specially employed as Senior Advisor and Principal Speechwriter to the Foreign Minister and Principal Interpreter to the President. While working as the president's interpreter for three years, she gained then-President Kim's confidence due to her interpretation during his phone call with U.S. president Clinton.
From September 2001 to July 2005, Kang was Minister-Counselor and later Minister at Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations. During that time, she chaired the Commission on the Status of Women for its 48th and 49th session. Before and after working at the Permanent Mission, she worked as Deputy Director-General and Director General for the International Organisations of the Foreign Ministry. Later, she was appointed as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Affairs of the Ministry.
Kang held key roles in the United Nations under three consecutive Secretary-Generals from Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon to current Antonio Guterres. In September 2006, Kofi Annan appointed her as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, equivalent to Assistant Secretary-General after seeing her potential when she chaired the UN commission on women. She was appointed by Ban Ki-moon as Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and Assistant Secretary-General for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in March 2013. In October 2016, she was appointed by then-Secretary-General-elect, António Guterres as Chief of the Secretary-General-designate's Transition Team. Later in February 2017, she continued to work with Secretary-General Guterres as his Senior Advisor on Policy, equivalent to Under-Secretary-General, before resigning for the foreign minister of South Korea.
After an announcement of her nomination by the Blue House in May 2017, Kang faced hard opposition from the opposition parties before and during her nomination hearing at the National Assembly due to allegations, such as address fraud and the nationality of her oldest daughter. Opposition was partly composed of claims that she lacks experience dealing directly with global powers - the U.S. in particular. During her hearing, she asked for understanding given that she was unable to manage her children in detail as a working parent, did not share finances with her husband to support her parents as their oldest child, and lived abroad for a long time. With public statements of support from a trade union of the Ministry, Japanese military sex slaves, or commonly known as "comfort women", Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development Cooperation, and her eleven predecessors, respectively, along with the public support of 60% and more, President Moon appointed her as his first foreign minister, a post that requires a nomination hearing but not the expressed approval from the legislature, in June 2017. With her and other female cabinet members, President Moon was able to keep his election promise to fill over 30% of his cabinet with women.
As of April 2019 Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of five ministries which heads have not changed since the beginning of the Moon's presidency despite of several reshuffles.
She is the third head of the ministry to attend the high-level segment of the regular sessions of the Human Rights Council after her predecessors Ban Ki-moon and Yun Byung-se. As of 2019 she is the first Korean foreign minister to make keynote speech at every regular session of the Council during their tenure.
She is married to the former professor Lee Yill-byung of Yonsei University and has three children: two daughters and a son. In 2000, when Kang moved to Seoul, Korea from the US, she illegally forged her residency to get her daughter to attend a prestigious high school in Seoul. In 2017 she admitted to this misdemeanor, but the statue of limitation had already expired.. She has been regularly criticized for never having passed the national foreign service exam, yet leading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where diplomats gained their credential by passing the exam before the recent reform.
- Special Award at the 11th Annual Korea Women Leaders Awards by the Young Women’s Christian Association of Korea (2013)
- Service Merit Medal by the government of South Korea (2006)
- Woman of the Year Award by the Korean National Council of Women (2006)
- List of foreign ministers in 2017
- List of foreign ministers in 2018
- List of foreign ministers in 2019
- List of current foreign ministers
- List of female foreign ministers
- South Korean government cabinet
- Lee, Jiyeun (June 18, 2017). "South Korea's Moon Appoints First Female Foreign Minister". Bloomberg News. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
- Min-kyung, Jung (June 6, 2017), "Foreign Minister prospects darken", Korea Herald, retrieved June 6, 2017
- "Secretary-General Appoints Kyung-wha Kang of Republic of Korea Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs". United Nations. March 18, 2013.
- "Minister of Foreign Affairs - Kang Kyung-wha". Minister of Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
- "Secretary-General appoints Kyung-wha Kang of Republic of Korea Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights". United Nations. September 18, 2006.
- "강경화 "아이가 걱정스러워서, 대단히 죄송"…위장전입 사과". news1.kr (in Korean). 2017-06-07.
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