French digital economy minister is adopted Korean

Fleur Pellerin, 38, junior minister for small and medium enterprises, innovations and digital economy, arrives at the Élysée Palace, the official French presidential residence, for her first meeting with newly elected President François Hollande Wednesday. She was adopted into a French family six months after birth, and has become the first Korean descent named French minister.

Her birth of was a series of misfortunes. Fleur Pellerin, 39, new French minister for digital economy, was thrown out on the streets of Seoul right after she was born on Aug. 29, 1973, spending her first days in an orphanage.

Her adopted father was a nuclear physicist and her mother a housewife. The new parents called her Fleur, meaning flower in French, and devoted themselves to raising her. “I was influenced by free and left-leaning parents,” she wrote in her blog recently.

She passed the baccalauréat, an academic qualification test, two years ahead of others at the age of 16. She was accepted into ESSEC, one of Europe’s top business schools, the Institutes of Political Studies, and the National School of Administration, a prestigious French graduate school. After graduation, she started to work as an advisor, handling financial matters for seven years.

Her interest in politics was sparked in 2002 when she worked on a speech for Lionel Jospin, former prime minister of France (1997- 2002). And so she moved onto work under Ségolène Royal, the first female Socialist candidate, then with Hollande as a digital economy expert.

She was called a politician who makes constant effort by Le Monde, the French daily. She was also called the ‘sharpest figure’ by Le Figaro, another influential French daily, which selected her as one of seven future political leaders.

Pellerin does not think of herself as Asian, but she does have an interest in information technology (IT) of Korea. She has never visited Korea since she was adopted, but has kept her Korean name, Kim Jong-suk, on her passport.

“I’ve never felt any particular emotion towards Korea because of the conditions of my birth,” said Pellerin, who has an eight-year-old daughter. “I do feel a kind of regret for Korean foster children,” she said.

Hollande, newly elected as president early this month, achieved gender equality within government by appointing an equal number of men and women for his cabinet.

Pellerin became the Junior Minister for Small and Medium Economy, Innovations and Digital Economy.

Christiane Taubira, 60, born in Cayenne, French Guiana, had the highest rank among female ministers as the Justice Minister. She participated in illegalizing slave trade as a crime against humanity in 2001, and was a candidate for the presidency in 2002.

Cecile Duflot became the Minister for Equality of Territories and Housing, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem became the Minister for Women’s Rights and Government Spokesperson and Marisol Touraine became the Social Affairs and Health Minister.

The Guardian, British daily newspaper, called the new appointees a “young and diverse cabinet.” Hollande and the cabinet decided to cut wages by 30 percent, May 17, to lead by example.

It is possible that some of the ministers will be changed if a leftist coalition government is formed, depending on general election results next month. If this happens, it is likely that another politician of Korean descent, Jean-Vincent Placé, senator of Green Party, is expected to join. <Korea Times/Kim Susan Se-jeong >

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