Kyung-wha (given name) Kang (surname) served
as the 38th and the first female Minister of
Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea from June
2017 to February 2021. Throughout her career
in Seoul, Geneva, and New York, she has been a
steadfast advocate for human rights and women’s
advancement. Her footprints demonstrate her
suitability for the position of Director-General
of the ILO, which requires a clear vision on
the importance of ensuring human-centered
approach and respecting diversity and human
rights in the World of Work.
During her ministerial tenure, Dr. Kang effectively
steered a structural reform of the Ministry under the
Organization-wide Innovation Plan to strengthen
the diplomatic capacity, while promoting efficiency
and inclusion in the policy-making process. During
her tenure, she also actively participated in various
multilateral discussions on universal human rights,
including labour rights.
Also, as a member of the Cabinet, Dr. Kang took
part in the formation and implementation of the
government’s policies for income-led growth,
which was modeled after the ILO’s work in wageled growth. She successfully collaborated with the
relevant Ministers and members of the National
Assembly for the ratification of three core ILO
conventions amidst the pandemic crisis.
Joining the Foreign Ministry in 1998, Dr. Kang
specialized in UN affairs. She consequently served
as Deputy Director-General for International
Organizations, and was dispatched to the
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to
the UN in New York in 2001.
Later, serving as Director-General for International
Organizations in 2005-2006, Dr. Kang tirelessly
engaged in negotiations at the UN General
Assembly on various issues including the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD).
Furthermore, Dr. Kang played a crucial role in
successfully convening the 14th Asian Regional
Meeting of the ILO in 2006, which aimed to
shape an agenda to address a wide range of
employment and workplaces issues in the region.
In early 2007, Dr. Kang joined the UN following
her appointment in late 2006 to the post of
Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan. For
over six years in the position, she supported
and complemented the leadership of High
Commissioners Louise Arbour and Navi Pillay on
human rights issues.
In April 2013, Dr. Kang was appointed by then
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the post of
Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator (DERC) and
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs. Supporting and complementing the
leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator,
Dr. Kang continued to give focused attention to
vulnerable people and sought to advance their
presence and voice in the humanitarian and
human rights sector.
After resigning from the DERC post in October
2016, Dr. Kang served as Chief of the Transition
Team of the Secretary-General-Elect. Then, as
Senior Advisor on Policy to Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres, she spearheaded his initiative
to realize gender parity in his appointments and
facilitated discussion on the restructuring of the
peace architecture in the Secretariat.
Dr. Kang graduated from Yonsei University in
Seoul, Korea, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in
political science and diplomacy. She received
MA and PhD degrees from the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst in the United States. Her
doctorate work was in the field of international/
intercultural communication. Dr. Kang is fluent in
Korean and English, and speaks basic-level French.
She is married with two daughters and one son.


Concerted recovery efforts to protect the world of work by the
constituents of Member States and international entities have
mitigated the social and economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19
pandemic, and the hope is growing for a return to everyday life that
is a Better New Normal.
Countries around the world have confronted the pandemic in their
own ways, and we have managed to endure the hardship while
relying on the hard work of one another. However, socioeconomic
challenges in the wake of the crisis persist, and nationalistic
tendencies in the response and recovery efforts have heightened
concerns over widening inequalities among as well as within
In order to achieve full-fledged recovery of the world of work and
ensure its better future, collective immunity against the virus must be
achieved around the world so as to reinstate the free movement of
labour and goods across borders and normalize global supply chains.
At the same time, only when an equitable recovery ensures that no
one, no country is left behind, can we create decent jobs and reduce
inequalities at home and abroad.
Thus, this is a decisive moment for multilateral cooperation, and
the ILO must take center stage in setting the agenda and leading the
efforts towards a Better New Normal. This is also a historic moment
for the ILO to demonstrate the century-long wisdom of tripartism and
social dialogue in navigating through difficult times and building a
better society for all.


I believe that the work of the ILO in recent years has been stronger
and more visible than ever. In response to the unprecedented job
crisis, the constituents of Member States moved quickly to adopt the
Global Call to Action for Human-Centered Recovery in June 2021,
while reaffirming the human-centered approach, the fundamental of
the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, and the importance
of coexistence and solidarity. The ILO has also been strengthening its
collaboration with other multilateral organizations including the UN
agencies to accelerate global actions in jobs and social protection for
a safe, secure and prosperous future for humanity.
My vision for the ILO is built on this widely shared belief that our
efforts for a better future of work must be guided by the “human centered” approach, which would help us in the search for collective,
comprehensive and integrated solutions. This is made all the more
pressing by the combined effects of the public health and economic
downturns triggered by the pandemic, as most acutely manifested in
the deepening humanitarian crises in the most vulnerable countries
and communities around the world.
Greater effectiveness in the cooperation and comprehensive response
among global and regional bodies would also be critical, as highlighted
at the recent SDG Moment at the UNGA. We have seen during the
UNGA how the ILO can facilitate globally-coordinated actions on jobrich growth, social protection and a just transition. The ILO must
continue to strengthen collaboration with UN agencies in pursuit of
Agenda 2030 to achieve the SDGs and arrest climate change.
All along the process, the ILO has faithfully reflected its core value
of Tripartism and represented the equal and diverse voices of the
constituents. This unique strength of the organization should be
taken to new heights for human-centered inclusive recovery towards
a Better New Normal.
As Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (Jul. 2017- Feb. 2021),
I endeavored to strengthen our contributions to multilateralism
and international organizations. In particular, we were steadfast
in solidifying the country’s transformation from a poor, recipient
country of humanitarian and development assistance to a sizable
donor by expanding and deepening the government’s overseas
development portfolio.
While juggling the many geopolitical and security issues of a divided
country, the Ministry under my leadership spearheaded the efforts
to put substance to the 3Ps (people, peace, prosperity) in the
government’s New Southern Policy and the New Northern Policy.
As a Member of the State Council chaired by the President or the
Prime Minister, I took part in the shaping and implementation of
government policies for inclusive income-led growth. I have worked
successfully with the related Ministries and the National Assembly
for the ratification of three fundamental ILO conventions amidst the
COVID-19 crisis.
My experience as a senior manager in the UN for over ten years in
the field of human rights and humanitarian assistance informed my
leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As Foreign Minister, I made
steady and unrelenting efforts to eliminate sexual harrassment and
abusive management practices and introduce innovative changes in
the organization so as to realize gender equality and work-life balance.
My management style was firmly based on respect for diversity and the
dignity of every staff member. I am particularly proud that the Union
of administrative staff working at diplomatic missions overseas was
established during my tenure for the first time in the Ministry’s history.
Building upon these credentials and aspiring to lead in opening a
new chapter in the world of work and placing the ILO at the center of
the multilateral order, as Director-General, I will prioritize:

Ensuring that the human-centered approach in the process of
recovery is universally accepted and upheld in the UN and other
multilateral fora;

Achieving the SDGs and creating decent jobs and protecting
workers’ rights within the multilateral development cooperation

Bringing tripartism and its values of solidarity, cooperation,
sharing and inclusiveness to bear upon socio-economic
developments at global, regional and country levels;

Shaping a model of people-centered economy for the post-COVID
era and strengthening technical support for ILO constituents.


For the ILO to lead in bringing about the changes needed to realize
inclusive and resilient world of work, the following issues are highly
First, we must formulate a new integrated framework which aims
to create more and better jobs, particularly for vulnerable groups
of workers, in a sustainable manner. Such a framework must be
guided by the international labour standards, and should be carefully
designed to support workers in the global supply chains.
As Director-General, I will continue to support vigorous tripartite
discussion so that the organization can provide a new direction,
drawing upon the capacity and voices of tripartite constituents and
actively engage in strengthening the Office’s support activities for
research, forum, and social dialogue.
Secondly, it is important to actively support efforts to expand
universal social protection for all.
The unprecedented changes of our times, including the digital
transformation driven by technological innovation as well as the
pandemic-triggered disruptions that workers have faced in their
daily lives have further highlighted the importance of universal social
protection system that the ILO has championed. The pandemic
has not only been an attack on the physical health and wellbeing of

workers, especially the most vulnerable including informal workers,
but also loaded them with additional risks associated with career
breaks, unemployment, income insecurity and care burden. The
gig economy, digital labour platforms and other by-products of the
digitalizing economy have led to an ever-increasing number in nonstandard forms of labour. Under the circumstance, the ILO must
actively support the efforts of the tripartite constituents to strengthen
social protection in ways that ensure the stability of workers’
livelihood and mitigate against trends that deepen inequalities.
Thirdly, the ILO must support the industrial restructuring and
transition to a sustainable low-carbon society as the climate change
agenda demands.
The overarching ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals
of “leaving no one behind” must also frame the transition to a
sustainable low-carbon society. The ILO must actively promote the
social dialogue among the tripartite partners at the international and
domestic levels in the process, in particular in shaping the consensus
on the issue of “just transition”.
As the first woman DG in over 100 years of ILO history and being from
the Asia Pacific, I will endeavor to lead with a deep appreciation for
regional, cultural, and gender diversity.
The ILO should strengthen support for the most vulnerable,
particularly women who were hit hardest by COVID-19. Women
have been disproportionately exposed to the risk of COVID-19
infection, as many of them are working at the front lines in the
pandemic response as care or hospitality workers. The decline in
employment of women has increased considerably. Furthermore,
as women’s unpaid domestic labour has increased, the gender
disparity in pay continued to worsen. Lockdown measures have led
to an increase in domestic violence, further threatening the safety

and security of women and girls. As DG, I will place greater focus in
the ILO’s capabilities to addressing the gender pay gap, preventing
workplace sexual harassment, providing decent work for women, and
strengthening their labour rights. In doing so, I will draw upon my
life-long experience and involvement, both inside Korea and at the
UN, in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and
I will expand the ILO’s technical cooperation projects for developing
countries hit hardest by the pandemic. Informed by the experience
of the Republic of Korea in national development and crisis
management, I will endeavor to build bridges and coordinate the
views of recipient and donor countries, especially to improve the
employment situations in recipient countries. In countries lacking
social cohesion as they reel from disasters or conflicts, the creation
of decent jobs is imperative for community recovery. To that end, I
would seek to expand ILO’s flagship projects, such as “Jobs for Peace
and Resilience.”
In addition, it is necessary to enhance ILO’s visibility and relevance
by strengthening cooperation with UN agencies in development
cooperation and contribute to Delivering as One projects. I will
endeavor to expand financing and strengthen technical assistance
through closer cooperation with the IMF and World Bank

As DG, I will endeavor to ensure the principle of equality among
ILO member states and fair representation of all regions in the ILO’s
Governing Body, as is the duty assigned to the DG by the Centenary
Declaration. At the same time, I will promote equality and democracy
in its operational structure.
As regards the operation of the International Labour Office, extensive
efforts have been made over the years to strengthen the professional
expertise in its human resources, and to increase regional and
national representation and enhance diversity. In particular, the ILO
has been exemplary among UN agencies in achieving gender parity in
staffing. However, at the senior levels and regular positions, women
are still a minority. Addressing this imbalance at HQ, as well as
improving gender balance in ILO offices at the national and regional
levels, will be one of my management priorities.
I will also seek to strengthen ILO’s effectiveness and efficiency in
the field. Communication and coordination mechanisms with field
offices will be thoroughly reviewed for needed improvements. I will
seek ways to forwardly deploy the workforce to regional offices where
projects are actually being conducted.
Furthermore, I will continue to strengthen and improve the
performance based management system in the ILO. In doing so, my
aim will be to upgrade the organization to be an agile and responsive
entity with limited resources that must constantly endeavor to
improve its efficiency and effectiveness