Building Trade Ties with South Korea’s Emerging Female Leaders

Emerging Female Leaders

In recent years, the Republic of Korea has been at the forefront of negotiating free trade agreements with partners in all regions of the world. Yet the diplomats and negotiators tasked with forging these deals have been almost exclusively male. As highly educated and qualified Korean women are entering government service and related private sector jobs at increasing rates, they have few female role models and mentors to offer advice and support their career growth and success. This reality can have a limiting effect on their career trajectory and ability to reach positions of leadership, and impacts the overall interests of the country.

In light of this, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) launched the initiative “Building Trade Ties with Korea’s Emerging Female Leaders” in partnership with the Korea Foundation. In this exciting new program, the Asia Society Policy Institute hosted an outstanding group of seven early career South Korean female trade professionals – four from the public and three from the private sector – for a 10-day program with the goal of empowering them to be leaders in their field as well as strengthen ties between the United States and Korea. This new initiative aims to promote the career development of up-and-coming women in trade, provide them with training and mentorship to thrive in their respective careers, and support their professional development as the Republic of Korea’s next generation of female trade negotiators and experts.

About the Building Trade Ties with Korea’s Emerging Female Leaders Program

The Emerging Female Leaders program offers the opportunity for female professionals from the Republic of Korea with interest and experience in international trade to participate in an intensive 10-day long program in the United States featuring workshops, briefings, and capacity-building exercises in Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco. The inaugural program took place in Fall 2019 and included meetings with current and former U.S. officials; trade experts; female business leaders in the media, and tech sectors; and other speakers.

The program focuses on developing skills and competencies for trade negotiations and working in the trade field more broadly. It seeks to deepen understanding of trade negotiations and trade policy making, and provides mentorship and guidance for women’s empowerment in the workplace. Sessions covered a range of relevant topics, including:

  • Understanding the trade negotiating process
  • Gaining negotiating skills, including strategies and tactics, creative problem solving, and “getting to yes”
  • Working with the private sector, legislative, and other government ministries through trade policy consultations
  • Navigating the media and public perceptions of trade
  • Developing skills to advance in the work place and providing career development guidance

Inaugural Program, Fall 2019

The Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) was excited to host the inaugural cohort of the Emerging Female Leaders program from September 30 to October 9, 2019.

The first EFL class included:

  • Eunhee Bae, second secretary in the East Asian Economic Affairs Division in the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Sunghwa Chung, senior deputy director in the FTA Agreement Services and Investment Division of the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy
  • Boyeun Kim, deputy Director working in the Korea-U.S. Trade Division in the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE).
  • Sung Min Koh, deputy director at the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy
  • Jahye Park, senior manager at the Hyundai Motor Group
  • Song-I Seol, deputy general manager at the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), a Korean private sector trade association
  • Ji Yeon Song, attorney at Kim & Chang, one of the most prestigious law firms in Korea

Building a Network of Emerging Female Leaders

Following their visit to the United States, the inaugural class of the Emerging Female Leaders program returned home with new skills and competencies to lead in their field.

“This program was a turning point for me to pursue my career as a leader.” – Song-I Seol, KITA.

Building on the success of this first group, ASPI aims to continue with future cohorts into the future. Through this initiative, ASPI aims to build a growing network of Emerging Female Leaders from across Asia.

Please keep an eye out for updates and new developments about this program. To learn more about the program, please email

Korea Foundation
This project is made possible by a grant from the Korea Foundation