Francis Wang addressing delegates during track II discussions
We arrived in both countries during the midst of turbulent times: Thailand was going through a period of political uncertainty during an unprecedented royal transition, and Korea was on its own domestic roller coaster with millions of citizens taking to the streets and calling on their president to resign following a corruption scandal.
The dialogues highlighted the importance of tradition and culture in the region, and how deeply rooted these values are in the way a society operates. For New Zealand to succeed in Asia both politically and economically, we need to make an effort to learn about and understand Asia in these contexts.
My initial objective in attending the dialogues was to gain a greater understanding of diplomacy and what it might involve. Indeed, the dialogues were a chance to gain first-hand experience about the importance of track II in promoting international relations – especially important during times when official channels between governments might be difficult (as in the case of Thailand).
Track II works to identify the shared values and common ground upon which to foster closer relationships. What intrigued me most was the emphasis placed on people-to-people relationships, and how these connections were a key driver in promoting understanding between countries. It was inspiring to see the respect for values, tradition, and national pride – and how these values have helped unite people in times of hardship and challenge.
During our talks and visits we were also exposed to the opportunities that Asia presents, especially in the technology, services and social sectors – areas that are of high interest to me personally. Many areas of Asia are still in a developing phase, presenting real opportunities and potential to make a significant impact, more so than in regions such as North America or Europe.
The trip provided me with opportunities to meet with people from very diverse backgrounds. My colleagues were former diplomats and leading academics from around New Zealand, and I also met with representatives from different embassies, global news agencies, the World Bank, the International Commission of Jurists, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
The dialogues themselves were an enriching experience. I conversed with leaders from political, academic, trade, economic, and social sectors about the impact that they were making and hoped to make in Asia. The opportunity has provided me with a renewed outlook on Asia, its importance and significance to my personal and professional development.
Having been born in Korea, Asia was always going to be somewhere I would have a connection to, but never a place where I saw myself in the future. Asia is now a region where I would like to build my career. My ambitions have shifted in a way that I hope to make the most of the opportunities in the region, and leverage learnings and skills from New Zealand in order to make a visible impact in Asia in the future.
Taking part in track II dialogues has had a profound impact on my personal and professional development – challenging my current thoughts and future ambitions.
Francis Hwang has a deep personal connection to the Asia-New Zealand relationship as he was born in Korea and grew up in New Zealand. He has a keen interest in developing greater insights about this relationship to foster greater understanding and collaboration between Asia and New Zealand, with hopes to develop a career working in this space. Currently, Francis is a Consulting Analyst at Deloitte New Zealand, having graduated last year from the University of Auckland with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is a member of the Foundation's Leadership Network.