Female diplomats filling posts dealing with major countries
Korea’s female diplomats are expected to fill senior posts in the foreign ministry dealing with four major countries for Korea — the United States, Japan, China and Russia — amid rising diplomatic tension surrounding the Korean Peninsula.
According to diplomatic sources, Park Eun-kyung, an aide to Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, is expected to be the first woman appointed as director of the foreign ministry’s North America Division 1. The division, which mainly handles diplomatic affairs with the U.S., is known as one of principal departments for the ministry given the U.S.’ huge role in the region and its relations with Korea.
Lee Min-kyong was appointed as director for the Asia and Pacific Division 1 in August, which mainly handles Seoul-Tokyo relations, according to the foreign ministry. Yeo So-young has been serving as director for the Northeast Asia Division 2 since July, where she took part in dealing with local governments of China and exchanges in the private sector between the two countries.
Kwon Young-a has been serving as director for the Eurasia Division, handling affairs on Russia and Eurasia region since May 2018. Adding to diplomatic affairs, she is also in charge of economic and trade affairs there. Lee Seon-ah, who became the first female director of North East Asia Division 1 in February 2018, was appointed as head of the new taskforce on strategy coordination support which deals mainly with Washington-Beijing disputes.
It is notable to see women in charge of bilateral diplomacy with the most important countries for Korea.
The appointments highlight the increase in the proportion of female workers at the ministry. Female employment at the foreign ministry was at 29.4 percent in 2013, according to government data, and increased to 38.7 percent in 2018.
The appointments are also seen to reflect Kang’s firm determination to appoint more senior and director-level female officials in the ministry. Kang has openly said she had difficulties in finding a full-time professor job as a female scholar here in the past. Since 2017 she has been pushing an initiative to increase the proportion of senior-level female employees to 26.38 percent by 2022.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha gives a congratulatory speech for the ministry’s new employees at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this April 26 file photo.