Meet the Match
A Korean Leader Looks to Celebrate the Power of Women
In 1988, the Seoul Summer Olympics and Paralympics brought two of the world’s biggest sporting events to South Korea for the first time. The memories are still vivid in Meeran Kim’s mind and have led her to dedicate more than a decade of her life to bringing the Olympics back to her country.
“Those Games brought the people of our country together as one and helped promote Korea to the world,” Meeran says. “I took my job at the PyeongChang Organizing Committee because I believed in the movement and I wanted to see it at home again.”
When it hosts the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, South Korea will become one of few countries in the world to have hosted the Olympics (summer and winter) and FIFA World Cup. Meeran, the head of the Olympic Family Hotel and Secretariat Team, has been a part of the organizing committee since 2011. Prior to this role, Meeran served for three years as the international relations coordinator for the bid committee.
Born in the capital city of Seoul, Meeran comes from a large family. She is the youngest of six daughters, followed by a younger brother. With few female role models in the sports world during her childhood in Korea, she looked to her mother as an example of a strong woman and leader. She even laughs as she tells the only reason her family is so big is because her parents kept pushing for a son. But on their sixth successful attempt they came out with a determined little girl: Meeran.
“So now we have a joke in my family,” she laughs, “‘if Meeran was not born how could mom live without her?’”
Meeran earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Sogang University and added a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages) from the University of Texas-Arlington in 2004. She believes strongly in the power of cross-cultural interactions to foster change and the role that mega sporting events play in this process. While the Olympics, Paralympics, and World Cup boosted South Korea’s global power in sports , these large-scale events also opened a two-way street between the country and new perspectives, approaches, and people.
“When there are many people from different cultures speaking together, it allows us to exchange different ideas and look for solutions together,” Meeran says. “When we are all represented, then we can truly work for a better, more equal world.”
At the PyeongChang Organizing Committee, Meeran is one of the voices speaking up for more female representation. While the committee tries to foster gender equality and stimulate women’s involvement in sports, there are few women in sports leadership positions. Although many female South Korean athletes have become household names, like figure skater Kim Yuna and table tennis player Lee SooYeon, few women are among the top leaders in the sports sector.
“There is an obvious gap and I believe that step-by-step we can do a better job,” Meeran says. “There are very famous Korean women athletes, but many of us cannot even name one female leader in a sports organization or governing body. As women, we work very hard. We are not weaker or less capable—we are the same as men.”
Meeran aspires to create a women’s sports commission in South Korea to develop and empower another generation of women like herself. She also wants to find ways to use the country’s platform as the next Olympics and Paralympics host to involve and celebrate more women as they break through the glass ceiling.
For guidance to accomplish these goals, Meeran will be mentored by Kerry Ruggieri, senior vice president, and Sofia-Lombardo Ramos, vice president, at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment. As leaders in an organization with more than 20 years of experience in the sports entertainment industry, Kerry and Sofia possess the creative storytelling and marketing tools to support Meeran on her mission, as well as her work with the PyeongChang Committee. With Ketchum offices in South Korea and an extensive background in marketing around the Games, these mentors can tie Meeran into new networks. Together, this trio of strong women will craft a positive narrative for South Korean women in sports—one that can be spotlighted on the global stage in 2018.