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" One must always keep one's mind open and be willing to participate in the local community. Studying abroad can be a richly rewarding experience for those who learn the host country's language and try to sympathize or internalize its cultural perspectives. Students should try to think of themselves as representatives of their home countries because their interactions with host-country citizens will affect, for better or worse, those citizens' views of the student's home country." -Ambassador Han

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"My U.S. education, aside from teaching me the technical aspects of my career, provided me with a broader view of the world, made it possible for me to meet students from around the world and learn from their experiences and encouraged me to replicate, in my country, the good things I learned about life in the U.S. "
-Alberto Aleman-Zubieta, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority

Interview with His Excellency Han Duk-soo, Korean Ambassador to USA

July 22 2010

Ambassador Han Duk-soo was appointed by President Lee, Myung-bak as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of the America on January 18, 2009. He presented his Letter of Credence to President Barack Obama on May 20, 2009. Before the appointment, Ambassador Han served as the 38th Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea after his nomination was approved by the National Assembly on April 2, 2007, and he worked in that capacity until February 2008.

Prior to serving as Prime Minister, Ambassador Han held numerous high-ranking positions in the Korean government. In 2006, he was named Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Facilitating KORUS FTA following his service as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy. Before being named Minister of Government Policy Coordination in early 2004, he worked as President of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.

During his distinguished career in government, Ambassador Han has made many contributions to the development and modernization of the Korean economy. Deregulation, market opening and strengthening of the market economy have been the three pillars of his philosophy and framework for the economic policy of Korea. Ambassador Han earned a B.A. in economics from Seoul National University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. He has been awarded two Order of Public Service and Merit Medals.

app2us: Your Excellency, we at are very thankful for your time, it is our privilege to talk to you.
The Republic of Korea and the United States of America have shared one of the strongest partnerships in the last sixty years, what will be the main areas of cooperation in the coming years?

His Excellency Ambassador Han: Korea and the United States adopted a "Joint Vision" in June of 2009 which details the specific issues that our nations will cooperate on in the future. If you would like, you could refer to it for specific details. However, the main areas in which we will cooperate cover a range of political, economic, social, and cultural issues in order to build a more comprehensive strategic alliance on - not just a bilateral or even regional scale - but on a global one.

In terms of political issues, we will continue to work together to encourage North Korea to denuclearize and arrest their ballistic missile programs. Economically, the United States and Korea have many, many opportunities for collaboration; including the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, nuclear energy technology, and building low-carbon economies. As always, Korea and the U.S. will continue to expand our cooperation in educational and cultural exchanges as well as supporting democracy and human rights.

app2us: As per the Global Innovation Index published in 2009 by BCG (Boston Consulting Group), the Republic of Korea ranks number one in the world. What is the role of education in establishing Korea among the world's most advanced countries?
Ambassador Han: Education has played a very important role. Historically, our country faced two large, developmental obstacles: poverty and a lack of natural resources. In order to overcome them, the government had to find a way to procure resources since there weren't any at home. The solution was an export-lead economy that would build up enough revenue for Korea to purchase those resources from abroad. But first, Korea needed exportable goods and skilled workers who could produce those goods. Education became the strategic keystone. It produced workers who provided Korea with a competitive edge and, consequently, the power to import resources and develop its economy.

Domestic education was not the only factor, though, that fueled Korea's advancement. Ideas from abroad were also very influential. Koreans often sought to study in other more advanced nations, finding solutions there, bringing back their theories, practices, and innovative technologies that could be applied to the Korean context and used to help cultivate the Korean economy. The Korean political system and Korean institutions also benefited from this trend of bringing knowledge from abroad and adapting it and applying it to the our context.

app2us: You accepted the job of Ambassador after having served as Prime Minister. Please, tell us about the most satisfying aspects of these two very prestigious jobs you have held.
Ambassador Han: The most satisfying aspect of being a civil servant, on the whole, has been the opportunity to substantially serve my country. As Prime Minister, I was responsible for coordinating between the various government agencies and sorting out their differences so that the executive branch could pursue its goals effectively. I reveled in the strategic thinking and problem solving that it required. Being appointed as Ambassador and charged with the duty of guiding and further cultivating the U.S.-Korea relationship is a great honor. What I love is that I am still in the business of strategic thinking and problem solving. Except, this time, the context has changed. It's between nations whose interests vary rather than government agencies whose policy objectives conflict.

app2us: In the last decade, Korean students formed one of the three largest student populations in the United States. What about the U.S. attracts so many Koreans to study here?
Ambassador Han: Koreans have always held a special regard for the United States. Historically, the U.S., in 1882, was the first Western nation to engage in a treaty with Korea. This long history, combined with strong strategic and economic partnership, has fostered a great deal of mutual cultural interest, which in turn inspires many Koreans to come to the U.S. The reputation of American academic institutions is also to be noted. The U.S. hosts some of the best institutions for higher learning in the world according to multiple international rating systems. Lastly, English is a global language and the U.S. is the best place in the world to learn it. Many Koreans wish to learn English because of the benefits that being proficient in a global language provides.

app2us: How was your experience as a graduate student at Harvard University?
Ambassador Han: Unforgettable. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in a community of motivated and passionate individuals and to study under inspiring and erudite professors. But, having the chance to live abroad in the United States and to get to know America and the American people on a person-to-person level was a privilege of its own.

When I first came to Harvard, it was my first time coming to the West. Back then, not many Koreans had the means to study abroad and coming as far as the east coast of the United States was certainly a rarity. I had basically walked into another world where people were racially diverse; where you are judged by your handshake; and are expected to debate and discuss social issues and adhere to very different rules of etiquette all while eating at the same time. The cultural differences were eye-opening and I must say that I learned a great deal from just being in the United States.

app2us: How did your study abroad experience help you in your career as an economist, diplomat, and statesman?
Ambassador Han: With globalization having brought every economic process to an international scale, studying in the United States certainly gave me a leg up in understanding, experientially, how economies interact in this larger, overarching system. At Harvard, I was able to study economics with some of the greatest minds in the field. I find this combination of experience and theory to be very useful. I often draw on both when I am trying to formulate economic policies that will not only address the issues at hand but will also be realistic and effective in their execution.

While in the United States, I had many interactions across cultural differences with both Americans and foreign citizens studying in the U.S. Through these conversations, arguments, and debates I learned how to communicate important issues in an effective way and how to persuade my interlocutor to not only see but also sympathize with my perspective. This skill is crucial and has proved extremely useful for me in government when I had to coordinate between different ministries, across party lines, and even reconcile differences between the governments of the United States and Korea.

app2us: Are you happy with the progress made at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit hosted by the U.S. President Barack Obama?
Ambassador Han: Yes. The Korean government is pleased with the progress made at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) and is honored to be the host of the next NSS in 2012. We welcomed the efforts of President Obama and other world leaders to combat nuclear terrorism and secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years. The positive role of the United States has been of great help in Korea's hosting of the NSS. The close Korea-U.S. alliance, as well as the profound trust and cooperative ties between the two Presidents, were reflected in the decision.

The 2012 Nuclear Security Summit will serve as a significant opportunity to examine in a concrete manner the international community's interest in and commitment to nuclear security forged at the summit this year. Korea will be able to widely publicize the superiority of its nuclear technologies in terms of safety, thereby further cementing the groundwork for the domestic nuclear industry to make inroads into overseas markets. Since Korea is directly involved in solving the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, hosting the next summit is expected to help rally the international community to make a stronger commitment to resolving this issue

Since the G20 meeting is the world's premier economic forum and the Nuclear Security Summit is the highest-level conference in global nuclear security, hosting both these summits demonstrates that Korea's status and prestige are rising in the international community. The first NSS in Washington was the largest gathering of world leaders hosted by the United States in recent history, and the second meeting in Korea promises to be the largest summit Korea will have hosted in its history.

app2us: What is your advice to students planning to study abroad?
Ambassador Han: One must always keep one's mind open and be willing to participate in the local community. Studying abroad can be a richly rewarding experience for those who learn the host country's language and try to sympathize or internalize its cultural perspectives. Students should try to think of themselves as representatives of their home countries because their interactions with host-country citizens will affect, for better or worse, those citizens' views of the student's home country.

app2us: Your Excellency, we are very thankful for your time.
Ambassador Han: My Pleasure.

We, at, acknowledge the help of the officials of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA - Mr. Eung-Gweon Kim, Education Minister-counselor, Mr. Kyoo Ho Lee, Secretary to the Ambassador and Mr. Tyler Rasch, Special Assistant to the Ambassador - for their help with the interview process.

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