- Speeches & Published Materials
[Incumbent] Foreign Minister's Interview with Yonhap News (1.22.)
[Interview] S.Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha "our goal is complete denuclearization"
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha talked about the second US-North Korea summit, denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula and more in an interview with Korea Now, the English YouTube channel of Yonhap News, uploaded on January 22.
[Interview] Women Leaders: South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha revealed her thoughts on women leaders, her leadership philosophy and her diverse career path in an interview with Korea Now, the English YouTube channel of Yonhap News, uploaded on January 22.
Below are the full transcripts of the interviews.
[Interview] S.Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha(강경화) "our goal is complete denuclearization"
Yonhap News (Host Alex Jensen): Well here we are with a very special offering for you today on Korea Now. We have an official who we've spoken about many times, maybe even speculated about what was in her mind, but now we can ask Kang Kyung-wha herself, the Foreign Minister of South Korea. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Minister Kang: Happy to be here.
Yonhap News: And in the last few days, one of the big talking points has been the trip of Kim Yong-chol, Pyeongyang's top nuclear negotiator to the United States, and that's sparked a lot of hope that we will indeed see that second summit between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump. Um, what's your broad forecast for that summit?
Minister Kang: Well I think the visibility for a second US-North Korea summit has been certainly enhanced by the latest developments. I think it will be, if it happens, a very important milestone that further builds upon the developments of last year. It was a year where we were able to make a huge switch from the situation of confrontation and rising tension to one of dialogue and peaceful resolution. Um, with a second US-North Korea summit, we will be able to take very concrete strides along that road toward nuclear, complete denuclearization, and building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula that we have just opened.
Yonhap News: And what kind of agreement can we expect, though, from this second summit, presuming it is going to happen?
Minister Kang: Well, the first summit was historic in itself, and the outcome of it was a very broad framework of shared goals. One being leaving behind hostilities and working towards better relationship between the US and North Korea. The second being an agreement to work toward lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, the third being the North Korean leader's reiteration of his commitment to complete denuclearization and the chapeau that indicated the US' willingness to provide security guarantees. So the goalposts are there, and so the second summit has now to produce concrete agreement toward those goalposts.
Yonhap News: It did feel a little like the goalposts are moving when North Korea started saying, well, denuclearization means any kind of American nuclear threat in this region.
Minister Kang: North Korea does its messaging in different ways. This is not out of their usual way of messaging to the outside world, but I think what comes clearly through is the commitment to complete denuclearization and to do it with the United States, in response expecting some concrete corresponding measures from the United States, and so that's the task at hand between the two sides, what steps North Korea is willing to take on the denuclearization track and what steps the United States is ready to provide in terms of corresponding measures. So that's the basic elements of the discussions. Of course, the denuclearization issue is not just the US' issue. First of all, it's our issue, it's our security, we live in this region. It's a global goal as well. It's a goal that's stated in a series of Security Council resolutions. So the US in fact is there on behalf of the global community negotiating with North Korea.
Yonhap News: You talked about corresponding measures. One thing we know North Korea would like very much and I think many South Koreans would like as well is an end of war declaration. What kind of steps could we expect from North Korea in return, what would those steps look like?
Minister Kang: This was something that we promoted and we continue to promote as a political declaration that indicates clearly before the world to, you know, end to hostile intentions, and the start of a process toward a peace treaty to replace the armistice treaty, and that we will do this in good faith. So I think the nature of that declaration is something that will also further encourage the denuclearization process along. We still think it's a very good step for all concerned to take. What North Korea can then offer in return is -- I would shy away from giving specifics to that because that very much depends on the, at the table between the United States and North Korea. But, you know, the denuclearization challenge is a process, it's a goal, and there are many things that need to happen in that process, not necessarily sequentially, but the sequencing, how, what, how to match denuclearization steps to corresponding measures is, we think, should be done in a way that has all the elements on the table, with a comprehensive agreement, then step-by-step implementation of those agreements.
Yonhap News: Many freer sort of speakers can say that it was perhaps unrealistic of the US to come out straight with CVID at the bat and say we need to bring about complete denuclearization, we need to do it irreverisibly, we need to verify this. Um, we're then sort of softening the rhetoric, in some people's opinion, to FFVD. There is speculation within South Korean media that we're seeing the US considering disarmament, and actually there is genuine concern among conservatives here in South Korea that the US might not quite support them as much as they were hoping. Is it just natural worries because there's been this deadlock for so long, or do you think the US is considering some sort of compromise?
Minister Kang: I think our goal, a shared goal between the US and South Korea and in fact the entire global community is clear. There's no shifting, not a bit, about what the goal is, it is complete denuclearization. It is the goal of the Security Council that has the primary responsibility for the peace and security globally. So, I, you know, press has a tendency to zero in on specific statements and to read policy changes in those statements. I think that's excessive. In all of my discussions with Mike Pompeo, in all of our coordination and consultations at all levels, there is no change, no shifting in what the goal is. We have our clear view on the goal, but we know that it is not an easy process. I always say, take a deep breath, because it is going to take a lot of patience and time. But there has not been a shift in the policy goal.
Yonhap News: What do you think's behind the US decision to open up the humanitarian aid to North Korea?
Minister Kang: I don't, you know, it's significant, I think it's particularly welcomed by humanitarian agencies. But it's more of a procedural easing of humanitarian agencies to travel to and do their work in North Korea, rather than a fundamental shift from no to yes. But it is a positive signal, and we've always argued that humanitarian assistance has to be separately considered. Now the real day politics makes that a little less so clear, but our policy has always been that this is separate, this has to be pursued in its own worth, and so we welcome it.
Yonhap News: Are we reaching that point where there has to be some sort of action on sanctions to start saving lives in North Korea rather than just being patient politically?
Minister Kang: The Council sanctions make clear exemptions for humanitarian assistance. So we can do that without sanctions relief. The sanctions are in place because of North Korea's nuclear and missiles development. So sanctions relief is dependent upon North Korea's actions on its nuclear and missiles development. That I think is very clear and so, as long as we don't see visible action, as long as we are assured that North Korea is well on its way to complete denuclearization, the sanctions will have to be faithfully implemented.
Yonhap News: I was in Gwanghwamun when President Trump came to visit, and the mood was pretty electric, there were protesters, there were supporters, it was certainly dynamic. I just can't even imagine how that would be ramped up if we saw Chairman Kim driving through Gwanghwamun for a meeting with President Moon Jae-in, from a security point of view alone, that's a massive headache, but if that were to happen, can you see it happening within this year? And how meaningful would that be?
Minister Kang: We certainly hope to see it happening sooner rather than later. Yes, there will be these challenges, we are a very vibrant democracy with very different views. Many civil society groups with many different views, and that's who we are. And I think we will have to manage that situation, but if it happens, it will be of huge historical significance.
Yonhap News: The thing is, if it happens, it will be an indication that things will have been going very well up until that point presumably, as his failure to come obviously in 2018 was very much in line with the deadlock with US talks. Is there a danger instead though that we'll see Chairman Kim go down this "new way" that he talked about in that New Year's speech?
Minister Kang: But I think the "new way," yes, I think both the the domestic and the international audience intended there, I think that was, while shoring up the North Korean position before coming back to the table with the United States, but also to the domestic audience. So every line of what the Chairman says is picked and meticulously analyzed and we of course, our North Korea experts are seeing, trying to see what that means, but at the end, you have to see that in the larger context of the developments since then, since then, as we see, there is re-engagement at the high level, and as I said, the visibility has now been very much enhanced because of the recent developments.
Yonhap News: The defense ministry's white paper had re-classified North Korea's state as "enemy." Is that peace process in danger?
Minister Kang: The South-North peace process?
Yonhap News: Well, particularly, President Moon's peace process.
Minister Kang: I think, you know, the peace process has, is not just South-North process, it's basically, just technically, it's at least a 3-way, or a 4-way process, if we were to build something that replaces the armistice. The armistice is what defines relations for the past 65 years, and that has to be replaced by something that involves all the signatories to the armistice. So formal peace is beyond, is more than just South and North Korea. But on the South-North Korea track, through these three summit meetings, numerous follow-up meetings, so dialogue is very active. You know, we've had a major agreement on the military front that has resulted in steps that have hugely reduced the possibility of something happening on the DMZ that could lead to something much bigger.
And so these confidence building measures on the military side, having grown up in this part of the world with this fear that something could happen, that is huge. And then there is, we've had a survey of the rails, so there is active happenings between South Korea and North Korea, but again, all within and in keeping with and adhering to the global sanctions regime. So yes, it's not full-fledged, but within that confines, there are lots of things happening. So I think the dynamics is active enough and strong enough so that it will continue.
Yonhap News: (Inaudible) have seen the tensions that go around in this cycle, I'm sure fear, what happens when we return, if we return to tensions. What do you see the situation looking at a year from now, for example? Do you have that contingency in your mind?
Minister Kang: Well I don't want to speak in hypotheticals. I can always hope and draw a beautiful picture, but definitely what we aim to do is real, significant and sure strides on the denuclearization track, and as you know, the sanctions very much depend on denuclearization, but if we get significant track there, I think that then further expands the horizons for South-North cooperation, and one thing that's not often talked about is the North Korean leader's repeated commitment to delivering economic development for the country. And he knows clearly that he cannot deliver that under the sanctions regime. And for the sanctions regime to be lifted, he needs to deliver on the denuclearization track.
Yonhap News: I think we need to reflect just a little bit on another near neighbor and that's Japan. And it's another big part of your job as foreign minister to handle this very difficult diplomatic relationship. This pattern has now been in place for years, and we have these elderly victims of colonial era abuses. What is your message to the Japanese government and to anyone who might be particularly interested in this issue right now, as time is very much running out.
Minister Kang: In these matters, you do have to take a victim-centered approach, what do they think? How can their sense of injustice be alleviated? So there are issues of the past that have not been fully resolved. You know, we will have to manage that. We want to do it with cool, you know, professional diplomat's, with measured rhetoric, measured discussions, we also want to move along and expand our ties on other fronts, economic collaboration, our business ties are huge, our people-to-people and cultural ties. So we very much want to take a two-track approach, deal with the difficult issues of the past, as they are, but our focus on the victims, but also, you know, do things on many other tracks that the two countries can do to benefit each other. So that's our, the basic approach of my government, I will not comment on the conduct of our counterparts. But I think in the end, you know, I think there are facts about the past, there is a huge sense of injustice by the victims of the past. And you cannot ignore that.
Yonhap News: Thank you so much. I don't know whether your legacy will be North Korea-related or Japan related or both, but we wish you all the best with both of those. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, thank you for joining us on Korea Now.
Minister Kang: Thank you. /End/
[Interview] Women Leaders: South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha
Yonhap News (Host Debbie Won): Foreign Minister, thank you so much for your time today, it's a pleasure to have you with us.
Minister Kang: Thank you very much for having me.
Yonhap News: So you've done a lot of interviews both as an interviewer and as interviewee when it comes to humanitarian issues and other global affairs. What I'm hoping that today might be one of those few times we can lighten things up a little bit and get to know you a little bit more as a person, and talk a little bit about your personal journey as a woman leader.
Minister Kang: I'm very happy to.
Yonhap News: All right, so let's get right into it. I wanted to begin with your passion for global affairs. When did you first spark an interest (inaudible) cultures?
Minister Kang: Well, I guess I always grew up very curious about the world outside my own country, other countries and other peoples and perhaps having a father who was a first-generation broadcaster in this country who dealt with issues outside the country was part of that. But then, having an opportunity to go and study abroad certainly made me much more aware of the diversity that's out there and how difficult in fact it is for that diversity to communicate, and to find harmony in all of that. So intercultural communication was what I majored in as my Ph.D program in graduate school, but I really didn't think I would have the opportunity to practice it as the country's top diplomat now.
Yonhap News: You've had a very diverse career background. You started out as an English broadcaster here in Korea, and later moved onto teaching at universities and then to public service. So how would you describe your approach when it comes to making those choices in your career path?
Minister Kang: Well, first of all, I'm very grateful and happy with every bit of that diverse experience that I've had. It all comes together and is now part of my, my skill set in this current job. But in terms of making career choices, I always go for what is new, not what promotes me, but what brings me new experiences and new challenges, and that partly explains why my career path is so diverse, because instead of staying in one track and seeing myself grow and be promoted in that track, when there was opportunity to move outside and do something new, that was the choice I always made.
Yonhap News: You are often named the "first woman" of many things; you were the first Korean woman to hold a high level position at the United Nations, and now you are our very first woman Foreign Minister of our country of South Korea. Now, how do you feel whenever you get that title of being the "first woman"?
Minister Kang: I've been wary of that title for a long, long time. I think I've had my share of being the first woman of anything, and I've, for a long time I've been hoping that many other women would share that title and, and many have. I hope someday, come a time when being the first woman in anything isn't news anymore because it is so frequent. And I'm enormously honored, but I think we have to speed up that time when, you know, it isn't news anymore to be the first woman in anything.
Yonhap News: As a woman working in a lot of leadership positions, what's been your biggest obstacle?
Minister Kang: I think in my generation, growing up in the 60s, 70s, and trying to make it in any career track in the 80s and 90s and so far, we've had to deal with, you know, first of all, deep-seated, women -- discrimination against women that is very much part of our traditional culture. But personally, I grew up in a family of just daughters, I went to junior high school and high school of girls only, so within that context I felt no discrimination, but once you're in university and, you know, faced with more men then women, it immediately hits that you are dealing with a very different kind of a human being, very different species, so that was a struggle for me.
But I think now when, after becoming a leader, there's always this self-doubt -- 'Can I do this?' 'Do I have it?' You also have the suspicion that, 'Am I being discriminated against?' 'Am I not getting what I deserve, not getting my, my decisions implemented because people are treating me as a woman?' So it's that, both your self-doubt and that inhibition is something that I constantly have to remind myself, as, not to detract me too much. And, yes, it may be, and maybe there are, 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.
Yonhap News: Throughout your career, you've had a lot of opportunities to work with all these different types of leaders from all over the world. So based on your experience, how would you define good leadership?
Minister Kang: Yes, I've dealt with many leaders both inside the country and, and outside the country, but it's all been in public sector, so I can't speak for the private sector. But I could simply sum them up into a couple of categories.
There are those who say, "Serve me," and those who say, "Follow me," and those who say, "Work with me." I think my style is "Follow me" and "Work with me," and in order to do that, it's mundane, but leading by example, I think is critical. I think for the leadership to be effective, you have to win the trust and respect of your crowd, your staff that you are trying to lead. You have to motivate them, you need to get the best out of them, and you can't do that unless you have their respect and their trust. And staff want a leader that they can be proud of. They don't want a leader that they are ashamed of; they have to find inspiration and motivation in the leader. And I think that's best when you do it by saying, "Follow me," but being good at what you do, but also saying, "Work with me." So that's my approach to leadership, and I personally found that kind of leadership in bosses that I've worked with, the best.
Yonhap News: And speaking of inspiration, a lot of young women here in Korea look up to you as their role model in life. Now I would love to know, did you have anyone that you looked up to as a role model when you were younger?
Minister Kang: Well, I think my own father, who nurtured me with unconditional love and trust and support. I've seen how he worked and he's somebody who cared so much more for his staff than his boss, and so that was natural to me and maybe that reflects my style of leadership as well, so growing up, it was definitely my father, but once out of school, there are a couple of men and women that I found inspiration in and I can name many, but just to name three -- Madame Lee Yeon-suk, who is retired now. She was member of parliament and minister. She was a woman leader, but always empowering of younger women leaders. She had a keen eye for talent, and when she decided, "You could use my support," she was fully supportive and very empowering, and I am still in great admiration of her.
President Kim Dae-jung, whom I worked very closely for, for about three years, a great listener with just immense wisdom, and just knew how to engage with any interlocutor that came by, and just, you know, at the end of that conversation, everybody turning to be a fan.
And then I think Louise Arbour, who was the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who took me into the UN system and made me her deputy, and I worked with her for about a year and a half, and we're still in close touch. But I have to say, she has the sharpest mind of anybody I know. She has the ability to penetrate any difficult issue and find logic in it, and find a response to it. So, there are many more, but just a few.
Yonhap News: And here comes the more personal side of this interview. Aside from being the top diplomat of our country, you're also a mother of three, and a wife. So how do you feel about the balance between your personal and our professional life?
Minister Kang: Well, at this stage in life, I have the luxury of not having to care for my kids and family because they're all grown up. In fact, it's the other way, they tend to take care of me than the other way around. So I think now, I think I use 95 percent of my time on work and perhaps 5 percent, usually on weekdays, enjoying the family. But that proportion of time spent on work and family would be very different from, for younger people, obviously, with young kids. And you just need to find a way to balance that, and time allocation is extremely important. There has to be the work-life balance that women should not be discriminated against because of their family duties and obligations, that men have to share that equally.
And child leave should not result in women falling behind in their career tracks after they come back from those leaves. So for, personally it's not an issue for me anymore. But I do know that it is a huge issue and a challenge for men and women with young families.
Yonhap News: And, since we're all human, we sometimes make mistakes and things don't always work out the way we want. So when you're faced with these setbacks in life, do you have any tips on how to deal with them?
Minister Kang: Mistakes, I think I go back and think carefully, was it really my mistake, or was it due to somebody else's? But if it's clearly my mistake, I come to terms with it. I acknowledge it as my mistake to myself and those affected, and take responsibility for that. But setbacks can happen regardless of what you do or don't do, regardless of any fault on your own. But I think the wisdom of, you know, surviving those setbacks and coming out at the end stronger is to see the silver lining in every situation. And, I think looking back, I think it was you know, those darkest moments in my life, and there have been periods of real personal difficulty and challenges, that you know, was also a period for self-growth.
Yonhap News: What's your biggest motivation that drives you in life?
Minister Kang: I think growing up, making sure that my parents are proud of me. Later in life, with a family of my own, making sure that my children are very proud of me. But now, I think it's starting off the day trying to be a force for the good side of humanity. Because you see the bad side in so many different manifestations. So, what is good and what is bad is very subjective. But at least you can have your own sense of what is right, and a moral anchor to build upon that, and try to act in a way that adds to that goodness, rather than damages it.
Yonhap News: So before we wrap up this interview, I want to ask for your advice for all the young women out there who are hoping to go out into the world someday and do bigger things. Could you offer them a few words of wisdom?
Minister Kang: I'd say, always try to expand your horizon, be curious, which means, don't be lazy, 'cause you can't be curious and lazy at the same time, and to do a lot of good reading -- good books, good articles, beyond the tidbits of information that you pick up on the internet. So I always carry a couple of books around with me.
Yonhap News: Foreign Minister, thank you.
Minister Kang: Thank you. /End/