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Ex-FM Kang to face public hearing for ILO leadership bid Thursday

Former Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)
Former Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)

Former Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who is running to be the next director general of the International Labor Organization, will face a public hearing to present her candidacy and take questions from the organization’s governing body on Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ILO on Wednesday said public dialogues with five candidates for its top job will be held on Thursday and Friday. A Foreign Ministry official said Kang’s meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. (Geneva time) on Thursday. The session will be broadcast live via the ILO website.

During the two-day session, each candidate will make a brief presentation outlining their visions for the ILO, followed by a question-and-answer period from the ILO’s tripartite constituents –- groups of employers, workers and government.

Kang is up against high-profile contenders, including current ILO Deputy Director General Greg Vines of Australia, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development Gilbert Houngbo of Togo, who has served as deputy director general of the ILO in the past, former French Labor Minister Muriel Penicaud and Mthunzi Mdwaba of South Africa, vice president of the International Organization of Employers.

Following the dialogues, the candidates will participate in a private hearing by the ILO’s Governing Body on March 14. The election will take place on March 25.

If Kang gets the job, her term would start in October, when current Director General Guy Ryder of the UK leaves the office.

The South Korean government has been making an all-out effort to back Kang’s candidacy that could see the first woman and first Asian leader in the organization’s 103-year history, despite criticisms from labor groups citing her lack of relevant experience required for the job.

President Moon Jae-in, who is visiting Saudi Arabia, met with the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday and asked for Riyadh’s support for Kang’s bid.

A veteran of multilateral diplomacy, Kang is widely respected for her leadership as the country’s first female foreign minister from 2017 to 2021, during which she witnessed historic summits with North Korea and other diplomatic accomplishments during a particularly tumultuous period. Before her stint as a minister, Kang enjoyed a long career at the United Nations, serving as a senior policy adviser for both former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In 2006, she was appointed as a deputy high commissioner at the UN Human Rights office -- equivalent in position to the UN deputy secretary-general -- making her the first Korean woman to hold a high-level position in the UN.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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