Day in the life: Pablo Kang, the Australian ambassador to the UAE
Pablo Kang has been Australia’s ambassador to the UAE for the past two years, and is now halfway through his posting here. His parents moved from Seoul to Sydney in the 1960s, and Mr Kang is named after Pablo Picasso, who died the same year he was born – 1973. He is concurrently the ambassador to Qatar, and he visits Doha at least once a month.
My six-year-old son wakes me up. During the week he pretends to sleep in and at weekends he’s always up at the crack of dawn. I’ll hang out with him before he gets ready for school. He’s a big fan of Star Wars, so we might get him to try out as an extra in the new film.
We have breakfast together – usually a bowl of fresh fruit, yoghurt, orange juice and sometimes a slice of raisin toast with tea. Then I’ll go to the gym, if I have time.
The work day begins. I spend most of my time in meetings. We have a reasonable-sized embassy here with lots of federal ministries represented, so I’ll meet them individually each week to touch base. For example our defence people, or our trade commission, Austrade.
Every Sunday we do a video hookup with our consulate general in Dubai, which is a big operation with lots of different agencies. Three hundred thousand Australians visited Dubai last year, and inevitably some get in trouble with the law. They’re often managed by the consular staff, who attend court hearings and visit prisons. Sometimes there are high-profile cases that I get involved in. There was one case in Dubai involving a couple of Australians, which for me was fairly resource-intensive. It had a happy ending, as they’re both now back in Australia.
10am to 2pm
Meetings with UAE government authorities are generally at this time. We might meet different parts of the foreign ministry, other ministries or senior sheikhs, depending on what’s happening.
We’ve just had our trade and investment minister over, so lots of our recent meetings have been about trade. The main things Australia trades with the UAE are cars, meat, dairy products, wheat and barley, and the UAE exports crude petroleum to Australia. It’s a US$6 billion-plus bilateral trade relationship every year, and it’s going up.
We also discuss aviation a lot. There are now 18 flights every day to and from Australia. The flight connections have been the main driver of every other aspect of our relationship with the UAE. The people, trade, investment, defence links, agriculture, Emiratis studying in Australia and Australian universities setting up here – it’s all happened because of the flights.
I usually eat lunch alone in my office and work through. It could be a sandwich, or some sort of leftovers.
At about this time there are majlises around town that I try to attend. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has one every Monday, and minister for culture, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, has his every day except Monday. Sometimes I go to meet people and observe what’s going on, sometimes I have specific business that I need to raise.
In the evenings there are lots of events I usually attend with my wife. I come home first, so I can catch up with my son. Sometimes I’ll play with him, go for a swim or throw a Frisbee around outside. I try to eat at home because I don’t eat well at functions, particularly stand-up functions. We have a Sri Lankan cook who can cook anything, really. He cooks a lot of spaghetti because our son likes it.
When my son goes to bed, we’ll go out again. Our son dictates how I plan my day. But I’m just glad I get to spend time with him.
There are more than 100 diplomatic missions here and they all have National Day events – tonight is the Queen’s birthday reception at the British Embassy. There are also conferences with big ceremonies or gala dinners to attend. Often I have two or three different evening engagements, so I go from one to the other to the other.
If I don’t have an event, I’m back in the office. I find if I have too many meetings during the day I have to find time for the paperwork and reports that need doing.
To wind down these days I’m watching House of Cards, which I’m really enjoying. We’re lucky because we get lots of Australian sport on OSN, so I follow that too. I’m asleep by 11.30pm. I could go to bed at 10pm, but then I’d lie awake for an hour trying to get to sleep.