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[Diplomatic News] Adopted by U.S. Parents, Korean-American Returns as U.S. Embassy Press Attaché

[Diplomatic News] Adopted by U.S. Parents, Korean-American Returns as U.S. Embassy Press Attaché

Posted September. 30, 2005 08:12,   


“Today will be the only day when he doesn’t say ‘No Comment’”

Don Q. Washington, minister-counselor for public affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Korea, jokingly introduced the embassy’s new press attaché, Robert Ogburn (46) at a reception in the Westin Chosun Hotel on September 26.

Carrying out the responsibilities as press attaché, the official mouthpiece of the U.S. Embassy, is as delicate and difficult as the issues he needs to deal with. Because spokespeople should be extra careful about what they say, they often become targets of complaints from domestic journalists. Assuming such an overwhelming responsibility, he delivered his inauguration speech for five minutes without saying “no comment” once, and he did it in fluent Korean.

He is a U.S. embassy spokesperson who looks like a Korean and speaks Korean. But he shook his head when he was complimented for his fluent Korean after the speech.

“I had to practice for full three hours to prepare that speech. I had to memorize the whole speech my secretary translated from English to Korean. I’m not good enough to have a conversation in Korean.”

As many as 150 Koreans present at the reception welcomed him with thunderous applause. It was the demonstration of heartfelt support for his life journey. He was born in Seoul 46 years ago and adopted by American parents. Now he is back in Seoul as a U.S. diplomat. People were lined up to speak to him, until the reception ended.

Journalists bombarded him with questions about the possible change in the publicity of the U.S. embassy. Those questions were testament to high hopes that he will focus more on Korea-friendly publicity. Conscious of the high expectations, he said “There is still perception that the U.S. embassy is out of touch with Korean public”, adding “I will try to meet with the Korean media more often.”

This is the second time that the career diplomat served in Korea. Korea was the first post he was assigned to after he took office as diplomat. He served first as deputy cultural attaché of the U.S. embassy and later as director of the American Cultural Center in Daegu for five years since 1988.

“The responsibility is heavier than before, but I’m more light-hearted.” Back then he faced more delicate KOR-U.S. issues. And he had his personal agenda, finding his biological parents.

His Korean name is Woo, Chang-je. He even attended a clan meeting where he could meet all people with last name of Dangyang Woo. In 1993 shortly before he left the nation, he received various crucial information about his parents after his story was broadcast.

Did he meet his parents? Unfortunately the answer is no.

“I couldn’t meet them. Maybe they passed away.”

He doesn’t seem to have regrets for failing to find parents, however.

The reception was also attended by his Vietnamese wife, Thu-hang. She, also a graduate of graduate school of Georgetown University just as her husband, first visited Korea with her husband, right after the marriage. After sharing ups and downs with her husband when his failed efforts to find his parents continued, she said “We never forgot Korea where our hearts belong, even when we were working in other places like Cairo, Egypt and Vietnam.”

He also wrote several books. He published his first novel as a second grader in junior high school. While he served in Korea, he published two books, including an essay titled “Encounters with My Mother Country.” Writing is a great way to release stress for him as diplomat and a journey to find his identity as an adoptee. What books will he write during his stay in Korea this time?

Mi-Kyung Jung mickey@donga.com