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A Korean who calls France home

Posted December. 16, 2005 08:34,   


One day in 1990, a young Asian man rushed into the office of the governor of Alsace in Strasbourg, France and demanded money.

“I am planning to hold events publicizing Korea. Please provide 600,000 francs (worth about 100 million won at that time) in financial aid.”

At first, the governor was perplexed at the abrupt request. However, he thought highly of the young man’s guts, and provided the necessary budget by raising donations and even offering his own money. The young man spent the money holding events like Korean artifact exhibitions, Korean traditional art performances, and discussions on the Korean economy over period of three weeks in Strasbourg. It was the first time that large-scale events related to Korea had ever been held in Alsace.

The man is Jang Hong, the 47-year-old president of a consulting firm, Han Corporation, based in Mulhouse, a city neighboring Strasbourg. The adventurous student, who decided to study in France 20 years ago even though the only French word he knew was “Bonjour,” has now become a decent businessman who is on the forefront of people-to-people diplomacy between Korea and France.

President Jang attracts Korean businesses to Alsace and gives advice to French enterprises willing to invest in Korea. One Korean mid-sized enterprise will soon move into a business center he prepared in Mulhouse.

President Jang has had dozens of interviews with the French media regarding the project. “I guess they find it commendable for me to bring Korean businesses here at a time when even French ones are moving out of the home country,” said Jang.

Also serving as the chairman of the Korea-Alsace Friendship Association, President Jang has long been a distinguished figure in Alsace. He has been familiar with the governor, the mayor, presidents of colleges, and other prominent figures in the region. Most of the figures developed their understanding of Korea with the help of Jang. Someone nicknamed him as “the most Alsatian Korean, and the most Korean Alsatian.”

At the age of 27, President Jang received an acceptance notice from one of the Ivy League universities in the United States. However, he chose to fly to France; he could not speak one single French word at that time. As if he were “enchanted by something,” he just went to France, majored in documentation at the University of Mulhouse, received a doctorate from the University of Strasbourg for his studies of European integration, and has stayed in France ever since.

He chose “wine” as his tool for making French friends. Once he began conversations by talking about wine, everything went smoothly. “Things may be the same for diplomacy, as well,” said Jang. His point is that one should fully understand the other country’s spirits and culture before trying to introduce his own.

Dong-Keun Keum gold@donga.com