‘Warm, professional, forward-looking and solution-oriented: An ICRC delegate, in a nutshell’


Ko Eun Lee, Detention Delegate in Yangon, Myanmar


Could you share more about your educational and professional background?

I studied French and journalism in school and then pursued my master’s programme in International Studies from France. My first job was with a French bank, hence that gave me a very good understanding of multicultural teams and setups.

I then moved to the IT sector and worked with Samsung in Dubai for six years. There, I met people from various backgrounds and my team consisted of colleagues from 18 different nationalities. I returned to Seoul and worked with Microsoft for a while. In a bid to work in a more global setting, I moved to Belgium and worked with Hyundai. As I had studied international negotiation, I slowly started exploring the domain of international humanitarian work and came in touch with people working with the UN and government organizations. I applied to the ICRC in 2018 after coming across some career opportunities during a job fair.

How did the shift from the corporate world to the humanitarian sector happen?

I had heard about the ICRC from friends who were working with the organization. In 2018, during an NGO/iNGO job fair in Seoul, I learnt more about the work and mission and was greatly impressed that the ICRC was the most active and outgoing organization in the field. I also appreciated that we work directly with beneficiaries instead of relying on secondary information gathered while sitting in offices. That’s when I started the application process and got my first mission to Myanmar in 2020.

In your first year with the ICRC, what has left the deepest impact?

After the military intervention in Myanmar, I worked with my colleagues to fill Allegations of Arrest (AoA) forms when parents and grandparents of missing people would visit us. While it was a very moving experience, it was also a highly professionally run process. My field officer and I would try and adapt our approach so that the visitors would feel comfortable. Nine out of the ten times, people were just grateful that we were there to listen to them and tell them honestly about what was possible.

While the corporate world is fast paced, the humanitarian sector works on a different model of delivering long-term impact. How does one keep oneself motivated?

I am amazed at what we are already doing and also trying to achieve – irrespective of whether the result is immediately visible or not. I know that sometimes what we do takes time to reach fruition. So, I don’t feel frustrated because the aim is to build a legacy with your meaningful work.

In your opinion, what qualities does a person need to become an ICRC delegate?

"`Openness` would be at the top of the list. You might be well-qualified and have all the necessary language and other skills, but if you are not open to adapting to different circumstances and dealing with frequent changes in culture and contexts, you might not be cut out for this job." 

Openness` is something that you constantly work upon.

Personally, I love exploring the local culture and learning more about the mannerisms and customs of people. Also, I stay open to learning about new cultures from other mobile delegates who are from different parts of the world.

6)  What was the moment you knew you had made the right decision to join the ICRC?

Right from the start of the recruitment process I knew I had made the right decision. In most of my interactions, I have found people to be warm and professional, forward-looking, focused on solutions, good communicators regardless of their mother tongue or background and full of positive energy.

7)  What tips do you have for someone who wants to join the ICRC?

Apply now! Click on that “submit” button now! Often, I see many people dream and plan about something but only some of them actually act upon it. Once you decide, just give it a shot.