San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
The Republic of Korea borders the Sea of Japan to the East, the Yellow Sea to the West, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the North, occupying a strategic position for exporting goods outwards from the peninsula. It is renowned across the world for its quality electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals, and robotics, and matches its economic success with a rich and vibrant culture.
This past December saw the election of Park Geun-hye, a 60-year old conservative and daughter of Park Chung-hee, the former President whose policies led to highly accelerated economic development after he came to power in 1961. He was assassinated in 1979, but his legacy was very much alive during the elections, splitting the popular vote almost equally between a retiring generation that longs for the days of full employment under Chung-hee’s regime, and the younger supporters of the opposition Democratic United Party. For the first time in a presidential election, more voters were above 50 than under 40.
The current government has continued to strengthen the Republic of Korea’s reputation for technological and scientific innovation, successfully launching a satellite into space on 30 January 2013. The satellite will collect crucial climate data to better understand the rate of global warming, and make the Republic of Korea a “space-power nation”. Tensions with its northern neighbours have escalated further in recent years, following less benevolent rocket launches and presenting a challenge for global diplomacy in which the United States, Europe, and closer regional allies all hold significant stakes. The border between the two states is the most heavily fortified on the planet, and has been described as “the frontline of democracy in the Korean peninsula” by White House National Security Council member Daniel Russel.
Scott Wightman was appointed British Ambassador to the Republic of Korea in November 2011, after two years as Director for the Asia Pacific region in the FCO and one year of Korean language study. Prior to that he was Director for Global and Economic Issues, leading work in the FCO on climate change, energy security, trade policy and the global economy.
He has also served as Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Rome and worked in the Commercial Section of the British Embassy in Beijing from 1986 to 1989. He was the UK Sous-sherpa for the 2008 G8 Summit in Tokyo. HM The Queen awarded him a CMG in 2009.