- Speeches & Published Materials
[Incumbent] Interview with The Straits Times (8.2)
[The Straits Times] What are the key messages you intend to raise at the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum?
[Minister Kang] Well, I think two basic issues -- one is our New Southern Policy, whereby we really intend to upgrade our partnership with ASEAN and ASEAN member states to a new level, and this is a flagship foreign policy initiative of President Moon. The second message, of course, relates to the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula. I recall when I was here last year -- very different situation, growing alarm with North Korea's continued provocations with its nuclear and missiles program. We have changed the context now. The context now is one of dialogue, to resolve these issues, and to work toward a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. And this is the outcome of the two inter-Korean summits in April and May, then followed up by the US-North Korea -- the first ever -- summit between the US and North Korea in June.
So these high-level diplomatic engagements have now changed the course of these issues to dialogue, to a peaceful resolution. It's going to be tough going forward, because these are -- this is about overcoming seven decades of tension and hostility, and also, alleviating one of the most serious security challenges not just for the Peninsula but for the region and the whole world, which is the North Korean nuclear and missiles development. But again, a very much changed context, and of course I will use this opportunity to explain where we are, and of course to seek the continued support of ASEAN and its member states as we move forward. I think what has brought us to this point is the unity of the international community in the message to North Korea, and we need to keep that unity as we move forward in achieving the complete denuclearization, a commitment made by the North Korean top leader in front of the international community, and also to work towards a lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
[The Straits Times] How can ASEAN help to usher in peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula?
[Minister Kang] Well, ASEAN-related ministerial meetings (have) provided a key platform where Korean Peninsula security issues have traditionally been discussed -- the ARF, ASEAN Regional Forum. This is the one forum where North Korea is a member, and I think the messaging at that forum last year was a very powerful one, and I think this year again, I think the North Korean foreign minister is coming, and that unity of the messaging, further encouraging North Korea to deliver on the denuclearization commitment, will be very important. And you know, we're talking about peace and security challenges that affect all of us. Of course it immediately affects us, we live on the Korean Peninsula, but the difference between having a Korean Peninsula wholly at peace and nuclear-free, the implications of that for the whole of the East Asian region, I think, is something that we should all put our minds to to bring about, and therefore to further strengthen this momentum for dialogue and peaceful resolution.
[The Straits Times] How satisfied are you with the progress made since the Panmunjom Declaration and Singapore summit?
[Minister Kang] The Panmunjom Summit, the outcome, the Panmunjom Declaration spells out areas of further dialogue and cooperation between South and North Korea, and we do need that cooperation to reduce the military tension, and resolve key humanitarian issues such as the separated family (issue), and we are moving with preparations for a family reunion event in late August. There have been other areas of dialogue between the two sides on reconnecting road and train connections, to reestablish military communications (lines) -- very much necessary cooperation to manage the relationship toward non-hostile, reduced tension and further people-to-people exchanges. We have lots happening on the sports front; we are now in discussion to field joint team to several events at the upcoming ASEAN games. So things are happening.
[The Straits Times] What are the obstacles to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?
[Minister Kang] The nature of the issue is a tough one. We are talking about a program that's very advanced, and I think just technically, it will be very time-consuming and needing a great deal of focus. It needs collaboration from the North Korean side as well. And so, moving along those tracks, but also ensuring North Korea that it gets what it has continuously asked for, which is security guarantees. You know, the whole rationale behind their nuclear and missiles and WMD program is that they need this for security, that this is guaranteeing them deterrence. So for them to remove that rationale, they need some other forms of security guarantee, and this is what North Korea is asking. Denuclearization on the one hand, and security guarantees on the other. So the discussion going forward is, how do you trade elements of one with the other.
[The Straits Times] What are some challenges you face as South Korea's first female foreign minister?
[Minister Kang] I am the 38th and the first, and I think that brings a lot of expectations so I have a great deal of public support that (is) I think inspired by this leadership position that a woman has taken on, but that also means a lot more responsibility in meeting those expectations. I have many fans among the women public, especially women of my age and perhaps slightly younger. So it's more responsibility on myself because we really need to show that I can deliver on this very tough job at this very challenging time. But on the other side I also get a lot of support, I think my staff (are) still getting used to women calling the shots -- I hope they're used to it now, after a year.
But it's also been good for the junior staff in the office. We are over 60 percent women at the recruit level, and they're coming up, but at the senior level, representation of women is still in the minority. So there is a huge gap, and you have a woman sitting at the top, so my message is equality at every step, and that means at a very practical level, doing things so that staff can balance life at home and work at the office. I think so far, it hasn't been that. I think women (are) equally capable at the entry stage, but once you have a family and kids to take care of, that's where you start to slacken off. You take maternity leave, you go back. You come back, you don't have the same kind of opportunities that men colleagues have. So at a very practical level, my message is work-life balance, and the ministry should support women and men, and I have to say, men are as keen about that balance as women, the more you go at the junior stage. And I think it's to encourage them, and to assure them that we care at the highest level that that is indeed being the case.