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First Korean-American ambassador to Seoul ‘honored’ to get role

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― As the first Korean-born U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Sung Kim on Friday insisted that the nations’ alliance is not a “zero-sum” game and dismissed concerns that he may face a conflict between American interests and great expectations among people in his motherland.

He said it’s the utmost honor for him to assume the post, not a burden, although it is a “huge challenge.”

“I know that there is huge expectation among the Korean public, and that’s fine. I am completely committed to the relationship and I will work as hard as I can to continue to improve the relationship,” Kim said in a group interview with South Korean correspondents here at the State Department.

He pointed out that there is a “huge convergence of interests,” not a conflict of interests, between the two governments. Both want the same thing on many important issues, although there may be a “slight difference of views” on the margins, he said.

He said advocating for the U.S. government does not necessarily mean working against South Korea, that gains on one side do not need to be offset by losses on the other.

“This is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “I think the relationship is much more mature and much more complicated than that.” 
Sung Kim
Sung Kim

He asked the Korean people to assess his performance without bias.

Kim was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. in the 1970s before obtaining his U.S. citizenship in 1980. The diplomat spent much of his career working on the Seoul-Washington alliance and the North Korean nuclear crisis. He is fluent in Korean. His wife is Korean.

He had a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, which he described as “quite emotional.” Many people, including his two teenage daughters, shed tears during the event, he said.

Kim said he will arrive in Seoul Thursday to take up the post.

He said his new assignment is not going to be easy but he is excited by that.

“As a Korean-American, as a diplomat, to be going back to my country of birth, my country of first love ― the Republic of Korea ― as the U.S. ambassador is just the huge honor. Honestly, I can’t think of a greater honor than to be in this position,” he said.

Kim pointed out the importance of people-to-people ties in Seoul-Washington relations, which affect a wider region as well as the global stage.

He said he will do his best to engage the Korean public, especially the younger generation, either through direct meetings or social networking services.

On a personal note, he said, it would be a good opportunity for his daughters to learn more about the Korean language and culture.
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