S. African envoy advises aspiring young diplomats

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jan 26, 2014 - 19:48
  • Updated : Jan 26, 2014 - 19:48
South African Ambassador to South Korea Hilton Dennis (right) answers the queries of an aspiring young diplomat at The Korea Herald’s Young Opinion Leaders Knowledge Forum in Seoul on Friday. (The Korea Herald)

What is the most important attribute for a diplomat? The question is as straightforward as it is fundamental.

Over 120 school pupils ages 12 to 18 from across the country quizzed South African Ambassador Hilton Dennis on what it takes to be an ambassador, South Africa’s support during the Korean War, and the legacy of Nelson Mandela at Kookmin University in Seoul on Friday.

It was all part of a three-day program, the Young Opinion Leaders Knowledge Forum, organized by The Korea Herald over the weekend for youths considering a career in international relations.

“The most important thing for a diplomat is a genuine curiosity and interest in people,” said Dennis. “You must like people. You must have a curiosity and be interested in other people, in their culture and in how they see the world.”

Dennis answered questions put to him by high schooler Park So-young and middle schooler Lee Chang-mok. They peppered the senior diplomat on what it takes to represent his nation, learning many things about South Africa along the way, such as its hosting of the World Cup in 2010, and its advanced mining industry.

Since 2010, the three-day camp has provided more than 800 young people with the building blocks of the knowledge and skills needed in a career in foreign service, including work shops and seminars on such subjects as economics, political science, leadership, management, NGOs and international organizations

Dennis said one of his main tasks as an ambassador was building an awareness of South Africa here, and he was very impressed by the questions the students asked him as they showed an in-depth knowledge about the African region, South Africa in particular, and current affairs.

By Philip Iglauer (