New U.S. diplomat focuses on building ties with Samoa

Jonathan Lee Yoo is the new U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Samoa and will head the American Embassy in Apia.

He arrived earlier last month and had to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine at the U.S. Embassy compound in Vailima, and has cleared quarantine together with his family whom he travelled with.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Mr. Yoo said Samoa’s hospitality and culture is admirable and he aims to maintain ties between Samoa and the U.S. within the years of his posting to Apia.

“The United States in Samoa has always had a strong relationship and I want to make sure that that continues whether that’s people to people ties, cultural exchange, education in the United States,” he said.

“My goal is that Americans continue to learn about the many contributions that Samoans make to global and American societies and at the same time, one of my top goals, [is] I would love to be able to  help build more ties between people in the United States – whether that’s local governments, state governments, university partnerships – with counterparts in Samoa.”

He maintains oversight of all U.S. government programs in Samoa and prior to assuming this position, he served in the State Department Executive Secretariat.

He has been a career foreign service officer since 2006 and his earlier assignments include being the principal officer in Busan and deputy political unit chief in Tokyo, as well as postings at American embassies and consulates in Seoul, Vladivostok, Shenyang and Baghdad.

Mr Yoo and his teams have received several awards from the U.S. State Department, including the distinguished honor award, the superior honor award, and the meritorious honor award.

Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Mr. Yoo grew up in Seattle and Washington before attending Northwestern University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history and slavic studies, and graduated Summa Cum Laude, and was elected Phi Beta Kappa.

He has also studied at the U.C.L.A., the University of Washington, and Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages as well as speaks Russian, Korean, and Japanese. 

He is married to Jihyun Bae and they have two children. This is his first time in Samoa as well as serving as a Chargé d’Affaires, especially in a developing country.

Though he has only been in the country for one month, he has already participated in a local event, the Samoa Shipping Corporation Maritime Academy and the National University of Samoa's [N.U.S.] School of Maritime’s merger.

He also already made courtesy calls on Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi

and the Head of State, His Honorable Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II and his Masiofo, Faamausili Leinafo Tuimalealiifano.

Impressed by the warmth shown to him and his family during their first month in Samoa, Mr. Yoo acknowledged Samoan culture’s uniqueness.

“So many countries around the world talk about hospitality. Many cultures around the world and it’s an important thing and I think the hospitality and the warmth that my family and I have been greeted with here in Samoa are really something. It’s really unique.”

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