MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government on Saturday, November 5, hailed the United States for naming an "Asian" ambassador to the Philippines, Korean-born Sung Kim.
Kim took his oath on Thursday, November 3, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte continues to launch tirades against the US.
Philippine Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a mix of English and Filipino: "It's very significant that they chose an Asian… and I'm sure it's some form of signal that they want to be on a better cultural footing and create an understanding between Asians."
"That seems to be, right now, one of the most obvious, one of the major significant reasons why they chose a Korean also," Abella said.
Abella has cited Asian culture in the past to explain Duterte's war on drugs, as he criticized the imposition of "liberal Western values" on "an Asian nation that places premium on common good."
Obama named Kim as envoy to the Philippines on May 18, along with 5 other nominees for the post of ambassador.
This was more than a month before Duterte took office and intensified his verbal attacks against the US.
Kim 'thrilled' about PH
Duterte has, for example, slammed Kim's predecessor, Ambassador Philip Goldberg, as "gay" and a "son of a bitch." (READ: US envoy leaving: 'I've never met warmer people than in PH')
The President has also denounced the US as "hypocritical" for supposedly meddling in domestic affairs. (READ: US on Duterte: Gov't not on shoulders of one man)
Despite this situation, Kim said he is "thrilled to have the honor of representing our country in the Philippines, our oldest ally in Asia and one of our most special friends anywhere."
"The US and the Philippines are and will continue to be close friends, partners, and allies," the incoming ambassador said.
Kim previously served as special representative for North Korea policy and deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the US Department of State. He also worked as US ambassador to Korea from 2011 to 2014.
Kim is expected to present his credentials to Duterte before he can official begin his work as US ambassador to the Philippines. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.