Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young delivers keynote address at 5th annual Walsh Exchange
Korean ambassador and MSFS alumnus Ahn Ho-Young addressed 60 undergraduates on April 15, 2016 at the fifth annual Walsh Exchange. Ambassador Ho-Young summarized his 37-year career in the foreign service, from his self-discovery as a teenager to his current role as Korean ambassador to the United States.
“I want[ed] to do something meaningful with my life … [and] something I could do well [would be meaningful],” he said, reflecting on his decision as a 16 or 17 year-old to join the foreign service. He emphasized that this decision was “more conviction than a scientific discovery,” because there was “no way to verify if it was the best career for me.”
Ambassador Ho-Young joined the Korean foreign service in 1978, and then accepted his “hardest assignment” when he briefly left the foreign service to study at Georgetown’s MSFS.
In 1990 he returned to DC as a diplomat, and faced three events, all between 1990-92, that have framed his work as an ambassador. In 1990, the end of the Cold War posed a question to the foreign service community: what would be the new world order? Yet while his peers and superiors were discussing this question, Ambassador Ho-Young was asking himself, “what do they really mean?” and wondering specifically what the US would be doing in the new order. Then in 1991, Korea signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and in 1992, the ambassador witnessed Bill Clinton’s election.
From 1994-2010 the ambassador focused on international economic issues and campaigned for the establishment of the G20 after the 2008 financial crisis. After serving as ambassador to Belgium, he became the Korean ambassador to the US in 2013.
Ambassador Ho-Young took seven questions from students and other attendees (one from each row in the audience). Questions related to Korea’s interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the “comfort women” deal between Korea and Japan, relations with North Korea, and the future of US-Korea bilateral relations. The ambassador expressed how much he admires the US; regarding the presidential elections, he said he believes Americans will select the person worthy of the job.
“I am a happy ambassador,” Ambassador Ho-Young said. “I represent the country I love … in a country I admire greatly.”
The Mortara Center and the Walsh Exchange steering committee thank Ambassador Ho-Young for sharing his experiences.
Written by Trellace Lawrimore, SFS '16