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Korean-French minister to visit Seoul to spur digitization project

All Headlines 12:00 April 10, 2016

By Song Sang-ho and Joint Press Corps

PARIS/SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- For Jean-Vincent Place, a French minister in charge of state reform, Korea used to be a ghastly reminder of betrayal and abandonment rather than the land of his birth. But now, the Asian country is one that he wants to associate with to spur his ministry's digitalization scheme.

During a recent interview with Korean reporters in Paris, Place said that he has now "reconciled with" his fatherland, which he struggled to push aside under the threshold of his consciousness after being adopted by a French couple in 1975.

The minister plans to visit Seoul next month to consult with Korean experts and officials to help catalyze his ministry's "France Connect" project, an initiative to capitalize on Internet technologies to digitize state administrative affairs.

"Candidly speaking, I had lived in pain with the feelings of betrayal and abandonment as I came to France from an orphanage (in Korea) when I was only seven and a half years old," he said in the interview.

But the deep-seated psychological pains subsided after he revisited the orphanage in 2011, where he was welcomed wholeheartedly by Koreans there. Since then, he has visited his homeland once or twice each year to meet with Korean friends.

"I have made good Korean friends, and (through the friends) I have now reconciled with the country," he said. "I go to Korean restaurants (in France) at least once or twice a week, meaning that I have come to feel love and affection for Korea."

The present-day Korea is incomparable to what it was in the 1970s, he said, praising the country's economic achievements.

"While it sticks to its economic development and tradition, Korea has achieved the modern development perfectly. I think Korea and Koreans are very outstanding," he said. "I give my praise for Koreans' dynamic activities."

Place cast himself as "100 percent" French. But he said due to his personal ties to Korea, he has a role to play in enhancing the relationship between the two countries.

"I think I cannot help but play a role in helping the bilateral relationship," he said.

The minister, in particular, has striven to help Korean students secure better accommodations in France and Korean immigrants smoothly settle in the county.

Citing former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's statement that he engaged in politics so as to return what he had received from his country, Place said that he himself wants to follow suit.

Place reportedly began his political career in 1993 as an aide to a lawmaker. He was elected to the French Senate in 2011, becoming the first Korean-born person to take the political post. He formerly served as vice secretary-general of the Green Party.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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