Asia Society names Dr. Kyung-wha Kang, South Korea’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, as President and CEO

Dr. Kyung-wha Kang

NEW YORK, January 24, 2024 — The Board of Trustees of Asia Society today announced the appointment of Dr. Kyung-wha Kang as the organization’s 9th President and Chief Executive Officer. Her appointment is effective in April.

Dr. Kang is an accomplished diplomat who served as South Korea’s 38th Minister of Foreign Affairs (2017 to 2021)—the first woman to serve in this role in the nation’s history. She previously held key leadership roles at the United Nations and was appointed to senior positions by three consecutive Secretaries-General: as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights under Kofi Annan, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs under Ban Ki-moon, and Senior Advisor on Policy to António Guterres.

Before joining the UN, Dr. Kang held various positions in the Korean Foreign Ministry. She served as Minister at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN, during which she chaired the 48th and 49th sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She also spearheaded efforts to highlight women with disabilities in the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She was later appointed Director General of International Organizations and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Affairs. Prior to joining the Foreign Ministry, she served in the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly. She began her career as a journalist, working as a producer for the English language service of Radio Korea of the Korean Broadcasting System.

Throughout her career in public service, Dr. Kang has focused on the values of human dignity and peace. She has long shared and supported the objectives of Asia Society. As Foreign Minister, she led Korea’s efforts to strengthen peace and co-prosperity in Asia, working closely with counterparts in Asia and around the world.

“I am deeply honored and excited to be Asia Society’s next President and CEO,” Dr. Kang said. “Since its founding, Asia Society has been the world’s leading non-profit organization to enhance knowledge and understanding about Asia and create bridges between the region and the rest of the world. Today, that mandate is more important than ever. Asia Society, with a deep focus on policy, arts, culture, and education is the pre-eminent global NGO to engage in both soft power and inclusive policy solutions—both sorely needed in a world of geopolitical tensions.“

“In selecting Kyung-wha Kang to be Asia Society’s next leader, we continue a tradition of bringing individuals with deep diplomatic experience to build bridges and foster greater understanding between nations in an uncertain world,” said John L. Thornton, Co-Chair of the Asia Society Board of Trustees. “The need for this role and these skills has seldom been greater. We are confident that former Foreign Minister Kang will be a trusted voice on both sides of the Pacific and around the world.”

Stephen E. Biegun, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, said that “former Foreign Minister Kang is a fantastic choice to lead the Asia Society. She was a great partner and courageous leader during the time that we served together in our respective governments. Kyung-wha is a highly respected diplomat and her deep relationships across Asia and with the United States will serve the Asia Society well.”

Ban Ki-moon, 8th UN Secretary-General, wrote of Dr. Kang, “I am confident that her intellect, vision, experience, and diplomatic and leadership skills will be of immense benefit to Asia Society, which is a storied global NGO that is well-positioned to leverage its expertise in both policy solutions and soft power to build bridges and deepen understanding.”

“Former South Korean Foreign Minister Kyung-wha Kang is an inspired choice to lead the Asia Society,” said Susana Malcorra, Co-Chair of the International Crisis Group, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, and a former UN Under Secretary-General. “We’ve benefited immensely from her wisdom and experience in her role as a Trustee of the International Crisis Group. Under Dr. Kang’s leadership, the Asia Society is well equipped to meet the many challenges facing the region.”

Heng-Chee Chan, Co-Chair of the Asia Society Board of Trustees adds, “Kyung-wha Kang is an inspirational choice for Asia Society. She is a true diplomat and barrier breaker—in holding the highest position ever for a Korean woman in an international organization, as South Korea’s first female foreign minister, and as the first woman recruited from Asia to lead the Asia Society.”

Dr. Kang won South Korea’s government Service Merit Medal and the Woman of the Year Award by the Korean National Council of Women in 2006. She received her B.A. from Yonsei University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in intercultural communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is currently a Distinguished Professor at the Institute for Global Engagement and Empowerment at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. She is on the boards of several Korean and international NGOs.

Asia Society is the leading nonpartisan, nonprofit global organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions across Asia and beyond. Founded in 1956, Asia Society is an educational institution based in New York with 16 centers globally. Its global network includes award-winning and state-of-the-art cultural centers and gallery spaces in Hong Kong and Houston, and offices in Delhi, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Zurich. Asia Society also houses the Asia Society Policy Institute, one of the top-ranked think tanks in the world.