Meltdown of Korean diplomacy
That has repeatedly blown up in its face, but the ministry has been insisting on using this policy; maybe because it doesn’t have any other alternative. Quiet or noisy, diplomats are paid to promote the national interest on the international stage and protect the lives of Koreans abroad. They have failed on both counts. Additionally, Japan and China are competing to strengthen their maritime territorial claims, while the ministry appears to be napping. Korean diplomats are facing a crisis of credibility.
They have to do something about this, but there are no signs that it is no longer business as usual. What is Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan doing? Some former diplomats claim that Kim may be a good skipper for the ministry under normal circumstances, but is unfit to push it through a series of reforms that are required to get it abreast of changing times in the world order. Maybe his being on watch now will prove to be a tragedy both personally and to the ministry. — ED
Detention of Korean activists nullifies quiet approach on China
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The foreign ministry came under fire Wednesday from critics who say officials are paying little attention to the human rights of four South Korean activists, who have been detained in China for 49 days.
Calls are mounting here for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get tough with China to release the four.
This followed Beijing’s denial of Seoul’s request to allow the South Koreans to have access to a lawyer. The foreign ministry called in the consul-general of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to protest the denial.
Criticism has erupted as China showed no signs of taking any measures to ensure the human rights of the detainees.
Hong Soon-kyung, chairman of the Seoul-based Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, urged the government to put pressure on China to obtain their release.
“China has turned a deaf ear towards South Korea as it is seen to side with North Korea, and is neglecting the South’s request. Given this, I think Seoul needs to be tough on this human rights issue,” Hong, also a former North Korean diplomat, who defected to the South in 2000, noted.
The four detained, including Kim Young-hwan, a fellow at the Seoul-based non-profit group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, have been imprisoned in China on suspicions of “espionage and being a threat to national security.”
Kim is a high-profile activist known for dramatically changing from being a pro-North Korea activist in the 1980s when he attended Seoul National University into a savior of North Korean defectors from the early 1990s.
Choi Hong-jae, a spokesman for the non-profit group, urged the foreign ministry to step up efforts to get the activists released. “The foreign ministry tried to settle the case through what it called quiet diplomacy before it was revealed. But this is no longer effective as the case has now been made public.”
“I think China’s detention of the four South Korean activists will put Seoul’s diplomacy to the test as this is about the human rights of its citizens. We’ll see if the foreign ministry can handle this issue smoothly.”
Kim had previously traveled to the eastern part of China three to four times a year.
“I don’t believe what China has claimed over the detentions. Kim has noted China’s economic reforms positively and its efforts to bolster ties with South Korea. He has no reason to do anything hostile against China,” Choi said. “Therefore, I am wondering why China arrested and detained him.”
Beijing has been reluctant to give details on why Kim and the three other South Koreans were arrested and detained.
A foreign ministry official said the ministry has asked China to allow the detainees consular access and a lawyer after learning of their status in late March.
“In this particular case, our hands are tied because the South Korean government is not in a position to interrupt the judicial process of China. All we can do now is watch how the investigation by the Chinese authorities is progressing and decide what to do afterward,” the official said.