The Korea Herald


Young Diplomats Academy inspires brave new generation

“It is also important to understand and be open to people from different backgrounds. You need to embrace cultural differences and appreciate diversity.”

By Joel Lee

Published : Feb. 5, 2018 - 18:28

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Thai Ambassador Sarun Charoensuwan has served his country faithfully, cultivating a positive image and remaining mindful of how his words and deeds are perceived under his ambassadorial watch.

The top diplomat from Thailand has also acquired “a vast range of general knowledge and experiences in foreign affairs, as well as related protocols and etiquettes” throughout his career, he told enthusiastic students at The Korea Herald Young Diplomats Academy and Young Opinion Leaders’ Knowledge Forum last week.

The annual event -- organized by the nation’s largest English daily -- attracted some 100 students from elementary, middle and high schools from across the country over the weekend. Each year an ambassador and diplomat from different embassies in Korea are invited to speak about their profession and engage with young aspirants. Previous ambassadors in recent years include those from Germany, India, South Africa and Singapore.

“Being a diplomat is a dream job for many people. It allows you to travel and visit many countries. It is a profession that comes with honor and respect,” Charoensuwan stressed. “As diplomats represent their own country and people, it is important for them to maintain a good image. You always need to look good because the way you look really influences how people think about your country.”

Thai Ambassador to Korea Sarun Charoensuwan (The Korea Herald) Thai Ambassador to Korea Sarun Charoensuwan (The Korea Herald)

In order to excel as a diplomat, one needs to adjust to the country he or she is posted in and make efforts to understand the local culture and people, he added. “It is also important to understand and be open to people from different backgrounds. You need to embrace cultural differences and appreciate diversity.”

Noting this year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bangkok and Seoul, the envoy said the two governments have agreed to increase high-level mutual visits and cultural promotional events.

“Thailand is looking to Korea as a model for development and seeks to learn from Korea’s know-how and best practices to develop our country,” according to the ambassador. Thailand, with a population similar to Korea’s, also faces problems of a low birthrate and an aging society, he explained, adding its $467 billion economy relies heavily on export, with South Korea being one of its key trade partners.

Located at the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is being transformed via mega-scale transportation infrastructure projects, highlighted Charoensuwan. The envoy expressed confidence that the projects would enhance Thailand’s connectivity with neighboring countries and in the region.

“Thailand is famous for its fruits and unique foods, as well as manufacturing. Thailand has a thriving tourism industry and is a regional center of medical tourism.”

Hugh Utting, the British Embassy’s head of trade policy, highlighted his career in the British Foreign Service -- the Foreign and Commonwealth Office -- through which he has been posted to countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East before coming to Korea.

Utting was born in Busan and lived in Ulsan until he was 4 months old. His mother was a librarian at Sogang University and the British Embassy in Seoul in the 1960s, while his father was a lecturer of mechanical engineering at a university in Ulsan.

Pointing out that he majored in economics to “understand how the world works,” the second secretary said, “It’s a fascinating time to be working on trade issues,” as the bilateral trade volume was $16.2 billion in 2016 through the European Union-Korea free trade agreement.

“This shows the strength of the ongoing partnership between our two great outward-looking nations and I am very proud to be able to work with fantastic Korean colleagues to improve the prosperity of the British and Korean people,” said Utting.

“The three most important things to remember to those wanting to become diplomats are staying close to people, asking lots of questions and studying hard,” he said during the Q&A session which was followed by singing a Beatles song with the students.

By Joel Lee (