President Park, Foreign Minister Yun and Kai Kim – What Do They Have in Common?

One of my favorite parts of this job is getting to meet with students, many of whom – without a doubt – are the future leaders of Korea.  I had just such an opportunity recently at the Korea International School (KIS) in Pangyo.  I was invited to the school by Kai Kim, a KIS high school student and leader of their Global Ambassador Club.  He follows me on Twitter (@mwlippert) and messaged me to invite me to KIS to speak during their Human Rights Week.

How it all started – Kai’s tweet

I was happy to put this on my schedule and visit KIS, which is in a beautiful location nestled in the mountains.  On the day of my visit, the students, administration, and faculty gave me such an enthusiastic welcome.  

Building an offline friendship with Kai Kim!

I joked during my opening comments that usually only two people on the peninsula formally summon the U.S. Ambassador: President Park and Foreign Minister Yun.  We’ll have to add a third to the list: Kai Kim!  Because it was Human Rights Week at KIS, I gave brief remarks on the importance of human rights and how, while we still look at whether or not a country holds democratic elections as a barometer of a country’s human rights status, we go deeper and ask whether women, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTI persons, and the disabled suffer official or societal discrimination.  We also look at human trafficking issues and labor rights as indicators of a country’s human rights progress.  The State Department issues an annual country-specific report on human rights progress, which can be found here

Talking to students at Korea International School

I also offered some personal anecdotes, including the story of how I ended up working for the U.S. Government.  I felt called to public service, so I went to Washington, D.C. and stayed with my cousin for the first six or seven months until I got settled.  I had hoped to work at the Capitol and was thrilled to be offered a job at Senator Feinstein’s office.  Little did I know that this life choice would set me on the path to one day meet Robyn, and even lead me to my life here in Korea.

Following my remarks, the students asked me some excellent questions.  In fact, I think some of the students will be excellent professional journalists someday!  They were very interested in foreign policy, diplomacy, and in the impact of decisions made at the government level.  Despite their young age, the students’ questions showed deep, strategic thinking – I was impressed!  

Dr. Min, Chairman of the Board; Mr. Shin, General Director of the school; and High School Principal Quirin were very gracious and hospitable.  The Parent Teacher Organization at KIS thoughtfully gave me some delicious Magnolia cupcakes – my favorite!  

What a crowd!  Thank you for the warm welcome, Korea International School!

I hope to do more outreach like this at other schools in Korea in the future.  Many thanks to all involved for their warm welcome!  Students like these give me great hope for the future of politics and international relations and, of course, for the future of our strong U.S. – ROK partnership.  

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