[EDITORIALS]Righting Diplomatic WrongsThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has let the people down again. The ministry has disclosed its plan to punish those who are responsible for the diplomatic humiliation surrounding the Korean executed in China for drug trafficking, and for follow-up measures to prevent such things from happening again. Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo apologized to the people and said he will call the responsible consul and his supervisors into account. In addition, on Wednesday, Mr. Han appointed consuls general to all the 124 embassies overseas, if those missions don't have one. Ambassadors will be the consuls general for embassies with more than five diplomats. Charge d'affaires will have to do consular service at embassies with three or fewer diplomats. However, the measures do not address the essential issues and seem only to be for saving face.
First, the punishment does not seem to target the right people for the right reasons. Unless the ambassadors and supervisors at the ministry are disciplined, punishing only five to six diplomats at the working level does not make sense. Koreans are frustrated with and furious about the incident in China because diplomats neglected the basic and essential goals of our diplomacy: to protect our citizens in foreign countires. We keep embassies and diplomats in foreign countries to protect the national interest and the rights of our citizens abroad. The ministry is going to call only the consul general and the consul responsible for the incident into account. It is not going to discipline the two former ambassadors on duty when the incident took place. We cannot say that the consular service, which protects our own citizens, was neglected, because there were not enough consuls general or ambassadors made consuls general concurrently. Mr. Han said such things as a remedy measure. We cannot expect a true overhaul of Korean diplomacy from such a punishment plan. The measures will only strengthen the tendency in the ministry for diplomats with connections to avoid the consular service. The measures will only help spread cynicism among diplomats who would say, "They had the bad luck to be there and that's why they are being punished."
Secondly, the government should make its position clear over the issue of letting Foreign Minister Han perform the duty to chair the General Assembly of the UN concurrently. We don't want to ignore that his chairmanship of the General Assembly contributes to improving the status and diplomacy of Korea in the international community. However, we cannot believe we should keep the foreign minister as the chairman of the General Assembly when we are continuosly bungling relations with North Korea, Japan, Russia and China. We think naming a new foreign minister would be more effective to solve current diplomatic issues while we keep the chairmanship of the General Assembly.
Finally, the Foreign Ministry should review appropriate functions of embassies in foreign countries and their regional characteristics. It should also come up with a new diplomatic scheme and goals corresponding to the post-Cold War environment. The diplomatic future of Korea stands at a crossroads. As a leading country in Asia, Korea chairs the General Assembly of the UN and discusses international responsiblities. Behind such splendor, there are dark clouds such as struggling with the saury fishing ban and bungling a statement on the ABM treaty.
If we punish the officials responsible, and let the foreign minister do the right job and produce drastic measures to improve consular service, our diplomacy will stand straight again.