January 30, 2024
SEOUL – Former South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, 68, has been appointed as the 9th president and chief executive officer of the Asia Society, according to the organization’s board of trustees on Wednesday.
Kang, who held the position of Seoul’s top diplomat from 2017 to 2021, is set to assume her new role in April. Before becoming S. Korea’s first female foreign affairs minister, she served as a special policy adviser to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Established in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III, the Asia Society is a global nonprofit institution dedicated to fostering understanding between Asia and the US.
“Since its inception, Asia Society has been the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding about Asia and building bridges between the region and the rest of the world,” Kang said in a statement following her appointment. “Today, that mandate is more important than ever.”
According to the global organization, Kang’s career has consistently championed the values of human dignity and peace, aligning closely with the objectives of the Asia Society, which led to her selection as its new president.
John L. Thornton, co-chair of the Asia Society’s board of trustees, also commented on the selection, stating, “We are confident that former Foreign Minister Kang will be a trusted voice on both sides of the Pacific and around the world.”
A graduate of Yonsei University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and diplomacy, Kang earned her Master of Arts in mass communication and her Ph.D. in intercultural communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the US.
Earlier in her career, she worked for the Korean Broadcasting System’s news bureau and international radio bureau and lectured on English literature at Sejong University in Seoul.
Kang entered the Foreign Ministry in 1999 as a specialist in international relations, bypassing the state exam for career diplomats. She went on to serve as an aide to former Foreign Minister Hong Soon-young and worked as an interpreter for late former President Kim Dae-jung.
Since then, she has assumed key positions in the foreign ministry. In 2005, Kang was appointed director-general of the Foreign Ministry, becoming the second female diplomat to serve as a director-level official.
Her career with the UN began in 2006 when she was appointed as the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights. In 2013, she furthered her UN career by becoming the assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Before being appointed Korea’s foreign minister, she served as a special policy adviser to the UN secretary-general in 2017. The position had been newly created by UN chief Antonio Guterres for Kang.