Kim Kyeong-im, the second woman ambassador in the history of Korea's foreign diplomacy, has been appointed as Korea's ambassador to the Republic of Tunisia. She sets off for the country on June 17. Her appointment is all the more meaningful as she is the first woman to be representing Korea in eight years, since the appointment of Lee In-ho as the ambassadress to Russia in early 1996.
Lee In-ho, the first woman ambassador, was an academic who had chaired the Korea Foundation, whereas Kim Kyeong-im is the first case as a foreign affairs public servant turned woman diplomat. Says Kim, "I've always been labeled the first woman something or other in my 20-year career, but I've not placed much significance in that. When asked my thoughts on the recent appointment, I say things are moving much too slowly for women if I'm only the second woman diplomat to be representing Korea."
Adds Kim, "As an Arabic state, Tunisia is a male-dominated nation, but eight of the 20 ministers are women, and the current vice-minister of foreign affairs is a woman. That women have made headway in politics in an Arabic state gives us much food for thought. Tunisia has a well-developed tourism industry, and a favorable climate for agriculture. On the economic front, Tunisia imports a considerable volume of Korean-made goods, but Korean companies should be more involved in 'direct investment' in the long run."
As the ambassadress to Tunisia, Kim plans to "be the bridge in strengthening economic relations between the two countries." She also promised, "As Tunisia is considered a good destination for foreign students interested in Islamic studies, I want to create many opportunities for Korean students, looking after not just economic diplomacy but cultural exchanges as well."
Ambassadress Kim proudly says that while maintaining the basic attitude of a diplomat, she will not lose sight of the 'pride of the marginalized' that she learnt as a woman. She concludes, "Women in Korean society are the weak minority, and having learnt to view society through the eyes of the minority, I am convinced that the minority can become the catalyst in history. I hope I can be a model for other women aiming to become diplomats."