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When We Have an Ethnic Sri Lankan Represent Korea
U.S. President Barack Obama last week nominated Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College, to be the next president of the World Bank. The World Bank is an international organization that spends tens of billions of dollars annually to assist developing countries. Announcing Kim`s nomination, Obama said, "His experience makes him ideally suited to forge partnerships all around the world." Kim was born in Korea and grew up in the United States, and has worked in various parts of the world, including Asia and Africa. "His personal story exemplifies the great diversity of our country," Obama said.
Initial candidates for the World Bank presidency had included internationally renowned elites from the United States, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Senator John Kerry, and former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. Kim was nominated due reportedly to the U.S. government's consideration for international politics. Obama acted cleverly by nominating a "Korean American" amid broad demand from developing nations for someone outside the United States. Traditionally, the World Bank presidency has been filled by an American while the International Monetary Fund is led by a European. As expected, China welcomed Kim's nomination and other newly emerging economies did not raise objections.
In fact, when Kim`s nomination was first reported, many people wondered about his background. But they nodded their heads after hearing Obama's remarks. Kim, a naturalized U.S. citizen, started as a medical doctor, but has had a diversified career based on his experience in various regions and sectors. Diversity, which few Americans have, has now become his competitive edge with which he can persuade the international community.
The United States used to be called a "melting pot" because it brought diversity together. But the country is now called a "salad bowl,” which means it is a mixture of many different cultures maintaining the characteristics of individuals and minorities. The United States has a competent candidate like Kim because the "salad bowl" is functioning properly. The country has a long history of bitter discrimination against minorities, ethnic and social, but the experience has created a lot of room to admit differences and to give individuals chances to develop themselves.
Korea is also a multicultural society nowadays. It has about 100,000 naturalized citizens, with some 10,000 foreigners becoming Korean citizens every year. Marriage immigrants living in Korea amount to some 210,000, with about 150,000 children born to them. In addition, some 30,000 couples tie the knot in international marriages annually. The nation has nearly 1 million long-term foreign residents.
The scope of Korean nationality continues to be expanded. In spite of their appearance, some Koreans have significantly different ways of thinking because they have stayed overseas for a long time studying. Conversely, despite their appearance, many people born in multicultural families have truly Korean ways of thinking and living. We also have citizens who have defected from North Korea.
Korea is changing little by little, embracing multicultural trends. Even "mixed-blood" people with “distinguishable” appearances can serve in the Army and become police officers. Military authorities decided to use the term “people” instead of "nation" in the oath of enlistment.
Nonetheless, we should take a step further: create the space where all Koreans of diverse descents can preserve their individual characteristics and cultural identity. They will transfuse diverse blood into Korea and take it to a higher level. More talented Koreans can be born and grow up in such a diverse environment. The day will soon come when the Korean president talks about "the great diversity of our country," as Korea takes the lead in launching a new international organization and nominates a Danish Korean or a Sri Lankan Korean to be its chief.