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Kang says pursuit of newness has added diversity to her career

08:00 January 22, 2019

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- From a radio producer to a university professor, presidential interpreter and top U.N. humanitarian official, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha's diverse career path has been driven by her constant search for "what is new."

Her journey for novelty has earned her a list of titles as "the first" in South Korea, including the country's first female top diplomat, but it wasn't always smooth sailing in a country where she says "cultural" gender discrimination lingers.

"I always go for what is new ... not what promotes me, but what brings me new experiences and new challenges," Kang said in an exclusive interview with KOREA NOW, Yonhap News Agency's English-language YouTube channel, last week.

"Because, instead of staying in one track and seeing myself grow and be promoted in that track, when there was an opportunity to move outside and do something new ... That was the choice I always made," she added.

Before joining the diplomatic service in 1999, Kang worked as an English-language radio producer at Korean Broadcasting System, university professor and secretary for the National Assembly speaker. In 2006, she joined the U.N. as the deputy high commissioner for human rights. Seven years later, she was appointed as assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

Along her path up the social ladder, there have been challenges, some from social discrimination deeply ingrained in the country's traditional culture.

"I think in my generation, growing up in the 1960s and 1970s and trying to make it in any career track in the 1980s and 1990s, we had to deal with, first of all, deep-seated discrimination against women," she said.

"But I think due to the active efforts of our civil society, our legislature, our government, the challenges now are not anything legal, but cultural," she added.

While she was conscious of the potential discrimination, what annoyed her was "self-doubt and the inhibition" from it, Kang recalled.

"You always have the suspicion: Am I being discriminated against? Am I not getting what I deserve? Am I not getting my decisions implemented because people are treating me as a woman?" she said.

"Yes, maybe there is still discrimination. But you sort of have to move beyond that ... and just deal with people at face value and just do your best," she added.

Touching on her passion for global affairs, she noted her curiosity about the world from an early age, influence from her father who was a broadcaster on global issues and her doctorate course in intercultural communication.

"But I really didn't think I would have the opportunity to practice it as the country's top diplomat now," she said.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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