Sung-Joo Han Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Diplomacy and International Politics: Conversation with Sung-Joo Han, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea; October 30, 2003, by Harry Kreisler

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Looking back at your life, it's a very interesting story: somebody who was raised in the context of the Korean War, who was educated in Korea but then came to the United States for an education and advanced degree after having been involved in human rights. Growing in that background, how would you advise students to think about their own future and to prepare for it, if they're interested in international politics and the work of diplomacy?

I don't know if I'm in a position to give advice. If I were doing it all over again or if I were talking to my own children, who have grown up already and have their own careers, but if I had younger children, what I would be most concerned about is not to be locked from the beginning into a set ideology, view, or explanation of things faulting this country or that country, or to try to interpret everything that happens on the basis of that theory, ideology, belief, whatever you call it, which is to say, without your backbone.

Try to have an open mind. It's very important to have a very pragmatic view on issues: What will solve the problem? What will make it better?

Also, not to attribute intentions. You might say, "He's a bad guy," whether he or she is your foe or your own leader. Whatever the policy is, it's a given fact, and we start from there. What I'm trying to say is to minimize the involvement of emotions.

But other than this question of ideology or emotions, I think it's extremely important to do what you are doing, and that is, to "converse with history," to understand history. Whether you want to be an American diplomat, whether you want to be a Korean diplomat, that doesn't mean it's enough to study American history, to study Korean history. It's very important to know about what's happening in other parts of the world, and what happened in other times in world history.

On that note, Ambassador Han, I want to thank you very much for coming back to Berkeley and participating in our program, and plugging the idea of a "conversation with history."

Thanks for having me here.

Thank you. And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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