Ex-FM Kang is competing for the top job at BIT this week

Former Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)

The election of the next director-general of the International Labor Organization is scheduled for Friday, with all eyes on whether former foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha has a shot at becoming the first woman and first female Asian leader in the organization’s 103-year history.

Kang, the country’s first female foreign minister, is competing for the ILO’s top job with four other high-profile candidates. Among them are the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Gilbert Houngbo of Togo, who has served as Deputy Director-General of the ILO in the past, Mthunzi Mdwaba of South Africa, the Vice-President of the International Organization of Employers , Muriel Penicaud from France, former Minister of Labor and current Deputy Director General of the ILO, Greg Vines from Australia.

The election will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday during the ILO Governing Body session. There are a total of 56 votes, divided between 28 from the Government group, 14 from the Workers’ group and 14 from the Employers’ group.

Whoever wins the majority of votes will become the next chief from October, when current chief executive Guy Ryder of the UK steps down.

The race is expected to be close, with Houngbo backed by the world’s largest trade union group, the International Trade Union Confederation. Meanwhile, Mdwaba, the vice-president of the IOE, also enjoys the unwavering support of members of the ILO workers’ group.

The outcome will largely come down to who can garner the most votes from the ILO’s government group, which comprises 10 permanent member states, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, India. Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as 18 other elected countries, of which South Korea is not one.

The South Korean government has gone out of its way to support Kang’s candidacy, with President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials asking for relevant countries’ support for Kang’s candidacy.

Although Kang has an unrivaled career and expertise in international organizations and foreign affairs, his lack of relevant experience in labor matters could hurt his chances, observers say. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the country’s two apex labor organizations, declined to back Kang, saying his experiences and stated vision are “quite far removed” from the job description for the top job.

A veteran of multilateral diplomacy, Kang is widely respected for her leadership as the country’s first female foreign minister from 2017 to 2021, during which she witnessed historic summits with North Korea and other diplomatic achievements. during a particularly tumultuous period.

Prior to her tenure as minister, Kang enjoyed a long career at the United Nations, serving as a senior policy adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In 2006, she was appointed Deputy High Commissioner in the UN Human Rights Office – a rank equivalent to that of UN Under-Secretary-General – making her the first Korean woman to hold a post. as high at the UN.

By Ahn Sung-mi ([email protected])

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