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Poland advocate Kim Soon-hyung dies of cancer

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Published : 2017-03-13 18:21
Updated : 2017-03-13 18:30

Kim Soon-hyung (1969-2017), an assistant to the Polish ambassador who tirelessly promoted Poland in Korea, died Thursday from cancer.

Working at the embassy from 2006 until before her death, Kim organized a multitude of assignments ranging from presidential and ministerial visits to cultural events.

A master of Polish language, she grasped its subtle nuances through living in Poland for 13 years, according to the embassy. She was also an “energetic press officer, event coordinator and bridge-builder between the two countries.”

Kim Soon-hyung, the assistant to the Polish ambassador who tirelessly promoted Poland in Korea, died Thursday. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“Mrs. Kim brought great energy to our embassy through her passion, cheerfulness and hard work,” Polish Ambassador Krzysztof Ignacy Majka told The Korea Herald. “We were all very close to Mrs. Kim and appreciated her knowledge, vigor, sincerity and kindness. We will all miss her dearly.”

Kim was one of the first graduates of the Polish studies department at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Upon graduating, she went to Poland and received her master’s degree in history at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and went on to pursue her Ph.D. at Warsaw University, which she did not complete.

Kim was an assistant professor of Korean language at the Warsaw University and also worked at the Korean Embassy in Warsaw.

“My wife was a sunny, passionate, compassionate and upright person,” Kim’s husband Lee Chang-hoon, a former journalist, said in an interview during her funeral service on Friday. “She had a lot of emotional attachment and affection toward Poland.” 

The late Kim Soon-hyung (1969-2017) (right) poses with Polish Ambassador to Korea Krzysztof Ignacy Majka (center), embassy staffs and Korean actress and filmmaker Chu Sang-mi at a screening of Polish documentary “Kim Ki Dok” at the Seoul Museum of History in October last year. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

Kim chose her Polish studies major in the late 1980s on the cusp of the Eastern Bloc’s disintegration, as Korea’s interest in the Eastern and Central European countries began to grow, Lee said.

“My wife was very much into culture and the arts, and found heaven in Poland, where she could enjoy the world’s finest operas, ballet and orchestral concerts for as little as $10. She knew the true value of Poland and tried hard to introduce its hidden treasures to the Korean public.”

He added, “When she explained Poland to me, it came alive to me and felt so close -- like a neighboring country -- despite being far away. I came to love Poland through her.”

As Poland was invaded and suffered trials throughout its history similar to Korea, the Poles have similar sentiments to Koreans, Lee commented. “Polish people have a lot of affection and sentimentality like Koreans. They cried more than the Korean visitors who came to my wife’s funeral service.” 

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)