Diplomatic coup

Published January 10, 2020, 4:42 PM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Yap Daza
Jullie Yap Daza

Mrs. Jae Kim, wife of US Ambassador Sung Kim, has fond memories of the Philippines to take home when her husband winds up his tour of duty. “Christmas is really special here,” she said over dinner days before 2020 kicked in.

Hosted by Lin Bildner at Baguio Country Club – activities that weekend included six weddings, the 20th Potenciano Ilusorio Cup, a musical soiree, a live-band gig – the dinner combined Filipino cuisine (lechon,) Korean delights (kimchi soup, a vodka-like drink called soji), and a universal favorite, fresh strawberries. Ambassador and Mrs. Kim were with their daughters Erin and Erica, and they all love dogs.

A week before the dinner, the ambassador had delivered what his listeners freely interpreted as his farewell speech at an event held in the US ambassador’s residence in Camp John Hay. But then he has made no bones about leaving Manila any day now, except that his successor has not been named; he himself has no clue who it might be. What Filipinos do know is that Mr. Kim has been an effective diplomat who speaks the language, formal and informal, of friendship between two allies of long standing and acknowledges the “incredible importance” of such a relationship.

His family reflects his attitude, they are happy in each other’s company and also in the company of Filipinos. Mrs. Kim is familiar with the shopping in Baguio’s dry goods market and has pictures to prove it. The mélange of brooms, baskets, woven fabrics, fruits and flowers in the market must have appealed to her artistic sense as she is a first-class painter whose paintings, done in a form of pigmentation from a Japanese-made powder, have been exhibited in several cities outside of the US. Not long ago, she left Manila for four months to paint the murals and backdrop scenery for a Korean teledrama, The King’s Letter.

Mrs. Kim herself is as beautiful as a Korean actress. Slim and tallish, she doesn’t need makeup. She and her husband are gladly aware of how Filipinos are addicted to Korean entertainment on the small and big screen, how young people worship K-pop stars up close or from a distance.

Has Korea overtaken Hollywood? Nah, the Kims are too polite to comment. ###