Foreign ministry steps up on-site inspections of overseas missions
The foreign ministry has stepped up on-site inspections of diplomatic missions overseas, following incidents of misbehavior and ethical lapses by diplomats, an official said Wednesday.
The ministry was severely hit by a nepotism scandal involving former minister Yu Myung-hwan in late 2010. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Yu's immediate successor, declared a zero-tolerance policy on lapses involving diplomats, but critics say his efforts to overhaul the ministry have not progressed far enough.
In the latest case, a senior diplomat in Auckland was suspended from regular duties last week amid accusations of scuffling with a fellow Korean official posted in New Zealand and sexually harassing female embassy staff.
"We plan to conduct on-site inspections of 35 overseas missions this year," the official told Yonhap News Agency by telephone, adding that less than 20 missions per year were usually subject to such inspections.
"If inspections find any irregularities or misbehavior, the ministry will impose the toughest punishment, based on the zero-tolerance policy," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Last November, a consul general in the Russian city of Irkutsk was summoned home for being drunk and behaving in an offensive manner at a public dinner. Another consul general in the Chinese city of Wuhan was also summoned home over accusations of inappropriate accounting.
Meanwhile, the ministry recently encouraged its officials at home to take a leave ahead of the summer vacation season.
A total of 1,032 officials work at the ministry's headquarters in Seoul, and they are entitled to a combined 19,696 days of paid annual leave. In the first half of this year, only 2,192 days were used, meaning that only 2.1 days per official were used.
There is a widespread mood that senior-level officials apparently are refraining from taking leave after the ministry has been under fire for mishandling a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, according to ministry officials. The signing of the pact was aborted at the last minute. (Yonhap)