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Second Korean-born U.S. ambassador to Korea

Posted August. 31, 2017 08:12,   

Updated August. 31, 2017 08:40

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Chinese general Lee Yeo-song came to Joseon with expeditionary force belonging to China's Ming Dynasty and massively beat Japanese military in the period of Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592. He is often likened to Douglas MacArthur who turned the tide of war in his ambitious Incheon Invasion to retake Seoul. While official records name him as an excellent merchant, behind the scenes records show he committed tyranny against Joseon people. Lee was a son of Lee Song-rak, a Joseon citizen who naturalized as Ming Dynasty citizen. Lee Yeo-song is assumed to be the descendant of a family who went to Yodong in China in ate Goryeo Dynasty or early Joseon Dynasty.

Sung Kim was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Korea in 2011 under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. He was the first Korean-American who became U.S. ambassador to Korea in 129 years since the establishment of the South-U.S. diplomatic relations. Many expected that since he is fluent in both Korean and English that he would more deeply understand Korea's stance and advocate for Korea. However, it was an overestimation to think such a way since he is a Grade U.S. official who speaks for U.S. interests.

The Donald Trump administration is expected to name Washington-based academic and former White House official Victor Cha, as the next U.S. ambassador to Korea. A Georgetown University professor, if nominated, will be the second Korean to become the U.S. ambassador to Korea. He has a tough road ahead as the U.S. and Korea will have to cooperate with each other more than ever since North Korean missile and nuclear programs have become a direct threat to the U.S. However, Korea and the U.S. can also likely to confront each other. When appointed as the While House National Security Council Asia director under the George Bush administration, Cha said he would possibly not be able to meet expectations that Korea has on him. It is likely that Cha will have the same stance this time, too.

Cha's father went to the U.S. to study at the Columbia University in the 1950s and settled there. Parents and wives of Sung Kim and Cha are all Korean. Kim grew up in Korea and went to the U.S. during seventh grade, while Cha was born in the U.S. and raised there, meaning that Cha is more Americanized than Kim is. Cha can speak Korean but he still doesn't talk in Korean with Korean correspondents in the U.S. It will be safe to say that a Korean-American ambassador will be coming to Korea.



pisong@donga.com