A gentleman with persuasive power

Karl-Heinz Paqué on the death of Dr Christian Taaks
Christian Taaks

Dr. Christian Taaks (1961 - 2022)

Christian Taaks died last Saturday after a severe illness - at the age of 61. For the last 18 of them, Christian Taaks had worked for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. A man with a broad education. After studying sinology as well as communication and theatre studies in Tübingen, Hamburg, Taipei and Berlin, the Stuttgart native earned his doctorate about the role of German media in China during the National Socialist era. Throughout his life, his love of history remained. Hardly anyone else in the Foundation knew the intricate construction and contemporary history of the Truman Villa in Potsdam better than he did - and could talk about it with such humour; probably no one else in the Foundation had the diaries of Harry Graf Kessler, the great contemporary witness of the Empire and the Weimar Republic, on the shelf at home and read them.

From Germany to South Korea

His professional career began in the 1980s - in global cooperation, specifically: at the German Foundation for International Development (DSE). He moved to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in 2004, initially to various positions of responsibility in Germany and abroad; for example, he was also Head of the Asia/Latin America Department. For five years, from 2010 to 2015, he was head of the Foundation's scholarship programme for gifted students. Even after that, it remained a matter close to his heart. After that, he was head of the European and Transatlantic Dialogue Unit until 2018. This was followed, as we know today, by his last station: project management in Korea at the Seoul office, in close cooperation with the regional office in Bangkok under the leadership of Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff, with whom a close friendship developed.

Christian Taaks loved Korea. When I came to Seoul for a few days in 2019 and he accompanied me to a conference in Pyeongchang, it became clear to me how much he had taken this country and its people to his heart. And they him: at the conference of the German-Korean Consultative Body on Reunification Issues, which met for two days at the site of the 2018 Olympic Games, you could feel the mutual respect in every conversation. The same applies to his relationship with the management of Hanyang University in Seoul, on whose campus in the College of Social Sciences the Foundation's office is located. Everywhere cordiality and mutual understanding as well as highly productive work in a high-level, academic atmosphere! Christian Taaks liked the polite, obliging and reserved manner of his Asian hosts, and deep down he shared it. Dr Sabine Heiser, his wife, was no different. Both spent a happy but far too short time in Seoul.

A voice of freedom

Strangely, Christian Taaks also became a kind of media star during this time. This came as a complete surprise, as he was a personality who was always concerned only with the cause - without any vanity. But "the cause" was the Corona pandemic from 2020, and word quickly spread around the world that the government and health administration in South Korea were extremely successful in the fight against the spread of the virus. Other important topics included his knowledgeable background information on political developments in North Korea and his analysis of the security architecture of Northeast Asia, which is always threatened by North Korea's nuclear weapons tests. Taaks received many requests for interviews - even from the German BILD newspaper. It was an irony of fate: the most objective of all patiently and competently provided information about the country and the region where he had only been living since 2018 - and he did it so convincingly that the requests were never-ending. Taaks delivered all these contributions on behalf of the Foundation: patiently, factually, convincingly. Rarely has the Friedrich Naumann Foundation been so present in the media as it has been on Korea and Northeast Asia in recent years.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has lost one of its best staff members - a gentleman of conviction of whom it is proud. We mourn him. We will not forget him.