It’s worse than lawmakers’ melee
The government’s hasty effort to sign a military intelligence pact with its former colonial master Japan despite public anger is no different from the melee at the National Assembly in that both hurt the national image.
Last November, Korea’s parliament became the laughing stock of the world as a minor party lawmaker set off a tear gas canister in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the ratification of a free trade pact with the United States. .
Months later, the government has risked tarnishing its image after abruptly requesting Japan to put off the signing of the intelligence pact an hour before the two sides were about to go ink the deal.
Some analysts here say the recent diplomatic fiasco caused by Cheong Wa Dae in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is even worse than the unruly parliament because the diplomatic fiasco is a matter of trust between Korea and a foreign government.
Compared with this, they said, the melee at the National Assembly is a one-time thing that people outside the country would easily forget as time went by.
Seoul’s last-minute, unilateral call to reschedule the signing “after its citizens calm down and are willing to support the pact” was diplomatically incorrect.
The flawed domestic process-driven fiasco is likely to cost brand Korea as the government failed to live up to its commitments with Japan.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University, said it will be inevitable that Korea’s reversal of the commitment to sign the pact with Japan would come at the expense of the country’s reputation.
“I understand that Japan would have regretted this,” he said. “But I don’t think that the impact will be so enormous that the country will lose a great deal of investor confidence. This is because many people are aware thatr Korea’s relations with Japan are unique because of thehir unfortunate history.”
The diplomatic fiasco was driven by the flawed domestic process where ministers skipped a meeting with vice ministers, a necessary step to be taken before the issue was put before the Cabinet. The foreign ministry said it pushed for the accord to meet a June deadline set by Kim Tae-hyo, a senior presidential secretary for national security strategy.
Kim reportedly orchestrated the drive to pass the bilateral pact at a closed door Cabinet meeting. He resigned Thursday to take responsibility for the controversial deal.
The government’s ignorance of anti-Japanese sentiment, which is still strong and prevalent here after the neighbor’s 36-year-long colonial rule, also fanned a backlash against the government.
What makes matters worse is the blatant bureaucratic infighting which has followed after the hasty effort to finalize the pact backfired.
Key officials of Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade involved in the issue pointed their fingers at each other to avoid responsibility.
Lame duck President Lee Myung-bak is seen by some as having lost control over his subordinates.
Some say melees at the Assembly and the failed intelligence pact tarnished the national image.
Korea’s legislature was portrayed as one of the world’s most unruly parliaments by Foreign Policy magazine in September 2009 after lawmakers and their aides used sledge hammers to break the door of a conference room to block the passage of the free trade pact at the standing committee.
Two years later, the Assembly drew the international headlines again after a progressive party lawmaker exploded a tear gas canister in an attempt to deter the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
Coupled with previous cases this illustrates old politics in the legislature,
Analysts here called the previous four-year-term National Assembly “the worst” the nation has ever had since 1945, because lawmakers relied more on violence than dialogue as a tactic to find a breakthrough on divisive issues.