France names first South Korean-born minister
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Fleur Pellerin, France's newly appointed Junior Minister of Small Business, Innovation, and Digital Economy arrives to attend the first cabinet meeting of the new government at the Elysee Palace in Paris May 17, 2012. REUTERS photoPresident Francois Hollande has named 38-year-old technocrat Fleur Pellerin as France's first South Korean-born minister, in charge of small and medium enterprises and the digital economy.
Pellerin, born in Seoul and adopted by French parents at the age of six months, is a classic product of France's elite education system as opposed to the hierarchy of Hollande's Socialist Party.
She had a brilliant academic career from high school on, attending the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA) that also educated Hollande and much of France's political class.
Pellerin, who told AFP she does not see herself as Asian, was raised in a family "with left-wing values" and only joined the Socialist Party in 2006, before becoming Hollande's advisor on the digital economy.
She says that she declined an offer to stand for an easy seat in next month's parliamentary elections. In France, ministers are not required to hold elected office.
Previously little known in France, Pellerin was feted by the Asian media during the gruelling campaign.
She told AFP that in Korea "there is a kind of collective guilt about having sent away children for adoption during the 1970s. Now, they're trying to renew their links and to see what these children have become." Her passport still carries what was her first name at birth -- Jong-Sook -- which she for a long time thought meant "perfect woman." "It's a first name that's a little out of fashion that can be translated as 'clear, transparent'," she said.
Pellerin says that in her spare time she likes to paint, cook, play classical piano and sing karaoke.
She is married to Laurent Olleon, who also attended the ENA and now works at France's State Council that provides legal advice to the executive. She has an eight-year-old daughter, Berenice, from a previous marriage.