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[Diplomatic circuit] Former top US diplomat highlights pet’s role in two-way public diplomacy

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Oct 29, 2019 - 09:38
  • Updated : Oct 29, 2019 - 09:38

Former top US envoy to Seoul Mark Lippert’s tenure here ended in early 2017, but he remains South Koreans’ most beloved former US ambassador for his friendly personality, his open-mindedness, his fondness for learning the Korean language and, most importantly, his basset hound Grigsby.

Lippert, who continues to champion public diplomacy, said public diplomacy is a form of two-way communication, as shown through the popularity of “ambassa-dog” Grigsby.

“Public diplomacy, if done well, should be a two-way street. Grigsby also allowed us to be part of that two-way street. Grigsby would show up, he would go meet with somebody. All of a sudden we were talking with somebody that, if it weren’t for Grigsby, we wouldn’t go up and introduce ourselves,” Lippert said last Friday, speaking at the second Public Diplomacy Week organized by the Korea Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul from Oct. 24-26.

“Public diplomacy should be two ways. Final point on the two ways is that I spend a lot of time talking about feedback ... you are constantly trying to calibrate to make sure that you are effectively communicating,” he added.

Through his signature public diplomacy, Washington’s youngest-ever representative in Seoul reshaped Koreans’ image of top US diplomats, breaking away from their traditionally aloof image.

During his tenure from 2014 to 2017, Lippert’s down-to-earth engagement with ordinary Koreans on the streets and at his residence on top of appearances at local baseball games briefly became the new normal.

At the center of Lippert’s public diplomacy was his lemon basset hound Grigsby, whose air transport arrangements delayed the ambassador’s arrival in 2014 to take up his post.

Former US Ambassador Mark Lippert gives a presentation on public diplomacy Oct. 25 at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, central Seoul. (Korea Foundation)

Lippert was frequently spotted walking Grigsby around downtown Seoul, with Grigsby wearing the jersey of the top envoy’s favorite local baseball team, the Doosan Bears.

Garnering affection among the Korean public, Grigsby’s name became synonymous with “ambassa-dog,” “ambassa-hound” and “diplo-dog” -- a new concept here.

“A Korean tourist instantly noticed my dog when I took Grigsby out for a walk in Washington, DC. The tourist asked for a photo with Grigsby. This goes on to show the crucial role Grigsby plays in terms of public diplomacy,” Lippert said on a local radio program last week. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)