Korean-Born Woman Back in French Cabinet

      April 11, 2014 13:24

      Fleur Pellerin

      Fleur Pellerin has been appointed to France's top foreign trade post after the Korean-born woman stepped down as deputy minister for small and medium-size businesses and digital economy.

      Pellerin (41) was named state secretary for foreign trade, tourism on Wednesday in the roster of new ministers after a cabinet reshuffle last week.

      Her new title ranks a notch below her previous post, but Pellerin now gets to attend cabinet meetings along with other ministers.

      An online campaign to have her reinstated apparently played a major role in her reappointment. After rumors spread that Pellerin would step down as deputy minister, businesspeople on the social media sites besieged new Prime Minister Manuel Valls to retain her.

      Prominent business figures like Gilles Babinet took part in the online campaign supporting her. The French weekly L'Express reported that it was "unprecedented" to see a campaign to retain a minister.

      France's new foreign and economy ministers competed to bring Pellerin to work under them. She was sought after for her ability to get things done and her popularity.

      France has a relatively weak IT infrastructure, and the current socialist political climate has led to a strong anti-corporate culture there.

      After being appointed deputy minister in 2012, Pellerin announced plans to build a large IT complex in Paris. She was able to secure a 215 million-euro budget for the project, despite belt-tightening measures by the French government.

      And during French President François Hollande's visit to the U.S. last February, she arranged the leader's visit to Silicon Valley, the first time by a French president in 30 years.

      Gregory LeClerc, the head of the French Automobile Manufacturers' Association, lauded Pellerin as the best when it comes to "understanding" the needs of businesspeople.

      Public opinion was less favorable when Pellerin was first appointed. She passed her baccalaureate -- the equivalent to a high school diploma -- when she was just 16, two years sooner than most, and graduated from the prestigious ESSEC business school. She then worked for the French audit ministry. Nonetheless critics claimed she was a quota appointment rather chosen on her merits.

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