Many diplomats posted in Atlanta discover the city for the first time when it comes available as a possible posting.
For Sangpyo Suh, arriving here in July constituted something of a homecoming.
The Korean consul general spent about a year in Atlanta enrolled in a master’s program at Georgia State University, but he was called into a new role in the foreign ministry before completion.
Over the decades, his career has taken many turns, with overseas postings at Korean delegation to the OECD in Paris, within the embassy in the Republic of Gabon in Africa and at the United Nations in New York.
Then, immediately before taking up the post in Atlanta, he served as South Korea’s ambasssador to Pakistan for nearly three years.
Back home, he had no shortage of roles to prepare him for the diverse demands of leading a diplomatic mission.
Starting out focused on economics and trade, he became an assistant secretary in the Office of the President, then worked on environmental issues at the Global Green Growth Institute and then later in the climate change division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
After the U.N. stint as minister-counsellor in 2013, he joined the ministry’s International Economic Affairs Bureau working on multilateral issues and later became the dean of education and training at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy.
Now, he runs a mission overseeing six states in the U.S. Southeast (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), where Korean companies are initiating transformative investments in the electric vehicle sector.
Mr. Suh has already met with Gov. Brian Kemp, who thanked the consul general during his acceptance speech for The Korea Society’s Van Fleet Award in New York last week.
Georgia, the governor said, is home to the third largest Korean-heritage population in the nation, and its thriving community plays a role in its string of investment wins.
That fact not lost on the consulate, which was established in 1976 and counts more than a quarter-million diaspora members in its coverage area.
“In addition, more than 230 Korean companies also make contributions to the mutually beneficial economic development of the two countries through vigorous economic activities,” Mr. Suh wrote in a welcome note on the consulate’s website.
These investment and trade ties strengthen the foundations of the U.S.-Korea alliance, which marks 70 years in 2023. The two sides signed a mutual defense treaty in 1953 after the armistice that effectively ended the Korean War, though no official peace treaty with North Korea was ever signed.
Mr. Suh’s appointment in Atlanta roughly coincided with Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to the White House to mark the July 27 anniversary of the armistice.
From 1950-53, the saw 33,000 Americans killed and more than 100,000 injured — a grave cost resulting in an enduring alliance that both American and Korean leaders have said was “forged in blood” and is focused till this day on the preservation of freedom around the world.
The Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia is the presenting sponsor of Global Atlanta's Diplomacy Channel. Subscribe here for monthly Diplomacy newsletters.