CHUN SU-JINThe author is head of the Today-People News team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
I exchanged more than 100 emails and messages with the White House to prepare for an exclusive interview with the husband of the Vice President of the United States on May 11. I was impressed by the speed and efficiency of the real-time communication system, even on weekends and early mornings. The interview was finalized only after seven to eight staff members thoroughly reviewed my personal information, past articles, and the purpose of the article was examined. After being finalized, the working staff members promptly checked the movement of the day, close-up photos and video coverage.
As Second Gentleman, whom they called SG, Douglas Emhoff in Seoul tasted bindaetteok at the Gwangjang Market, greeted people while walking along the Cheonggyecheon and paid a visit to the War Memorial to honor the young Koreans and Americans who died in the 1950-53 Korean War, his staff constantly scanned the site and arranged the movement. The teamwork between the White House and the State Department in the process was professionalism itself. When I asked about the SG team’s office in the motorcade on the move, the staff member working from the iPhone responded that it was more important for the SG to produce results than the format of the office. It was a wise answer to my stupid question.
I am sending this answer straight to those who are calculating the pros and cons of installing an office for the first lady. It is true that Korea has an unprecedented first lady now. But would it be in the national interest to debate over it based on political inclination and gender role? Isn’t it better to think about how the first lady should be assisted to match the national status of Korea in 2022? The contents should come before the format.
First Lady Jill Biden visited Ukraine alone on behalf of U.S. President Joe Biden. Someone who had met French President Emmanuel Macron said that what he said the most was, “I need Brigitte’s help, where is she?” When other countries utilize the spouses of the leaders as diplomatic assets, where is Korea headed?
President Yoon Suk-yeol and his wife Kim Kun-hee, who made their diplomatic debut at the recent NATO summit, have clear duties to the people. Those are to raise national status and promote national interest. All acts of Kim as the first lady should be carried out effectively based on this clear principle — just like SG Emhoff, a lawyer throughout his life, was engaged in great public diplomacy with the help of professional staff. Exhausting formality controversies corrode the soul of the government. Now is the time to reflect on what is important. Five years is not long.
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