By Scott J. Lavon
Emerging from some of the world’s longest COVID lockdowns, first and second tour (FAST) personnel from Mission China, the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, Mission Japan, Mission Korea, and Mission Mongolia gathered in Seoul for the Northeast Asia FAST Workshop, April 6-7. Through this professional development opportunity, participants gained a better understanding of the substantive issues in the East Asia and Pacific region and shared the priorities of each mission. The 39 participants returned to their posts with new ideas, contacts, and best practices in relationship management and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility that would make them more effective officers. Since entering the Foreign Service, the majority of the participants had worked in hybrid work environments due to COVID protocols, and many had attended their entry training in a virtual environment.
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Philip Goldberg, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kin Moy, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim, and members of the National Security Council shared career insights and advice on advancing U.S. government policy.
In addition, participants gained perspectives about top policy matters in the region and how these issues are likely to develop in the years to come. Workshop attendees also learned from one another, with each represented post taking charge of one FAST-led interactive session. Participants went on site visits with breakout groups, visiting Samsung’s global headquarters, Korean Broadcasting System studios, the Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (the ROK equivalent of the Foreign Service Institute). These interactions with field experts and leading players in Korean entertainment, business, technology, and government improved attendees’ understanding of how the region functions and inspired them with new ideas to implement at their own posts.
Attendees also connected with one another. During a reception at the deputy chief of mission’s residence and through breaks and social outings, attendees shared best practices, discussed challenges, and expanded their regional networks.
“I had the opportunity to present on crisis communication and response based on learned experiences from the zero-COVID era and subsequent pandemic measures within China,” said Sofia Ramirez, executive staff assistant at Embassy Beijing. “It was a valuable opportunity to practice policy briefing, public speaking, and translating lived experiences into professional skills.”
Scott J. Lavon is a political officer and FAST committee chair at Embassy Seoul.