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Korean Diplomat Visits Nome, Talks Arctic Trade and Tourism

Deputy Consul General Ohkeum Kwon

Nome, Alaska — A diplomat from the Republic of Korea was in Nome last week. Ohkeum Kwon is Korea’s Deputy Consul General based in Anchorage.

Nome Mayor Richard Beneville described her visit as a “courtesy call.”

“As her role as the representative of the Republic of Korea in Alaska, she feels it important, as does her government, that she get out to visit these smaller towns where there is a population of Koreans,” Beneville explained.

While the mayor’s meeting with the diplomat was mostly small talk, Beneville said they did discuss the opening of the Arctic Ocean to international shipping.

“And that has a big effect on Korea,” Beneville said, “because they’re big trading partners all over the world.”

Deputy Consul General Ohkeum Kwon

Deputy Consul General Ohkeum Kwon. Photo courtesy of John Handeland.

Korea made its interests in the Arctic clear in 2013 when it gained official observer status at the Arctic Council, and it’s not just commercial shipping in the far north that Korea has a stake in. Beneville said they also talked tourism.

Nome is scheduled to host the Crystal Serenity and its more than 1,000 passengers this summer on its up way up through the Northwest Passage.

“That’s a game changer,” Beneville said. “It’s having a huge effect in Washington D.C., a huge effect in Alaska, certainly, and it’s kind of shifting the idea of cruise routes.”

Port Director Joy Baker joined Beneville, along with Nome’s Chief of Police John Papasadora and Utility Manager John Handeland to welcome the Korean diplomat.

Beneville said besides the small talk about Arctic trade and tourism, Ohkeum Kwon and her assistant went on a short hike, were given a tour of Nome, and ate lunch in a local Korean-owned restaurant.