[INTERVIEW] 'Diplomacy Is Different From Trade'The ultimate goal for both Britain and North Korea is to establish embassies in each other's country.
James Hoare, the first British charge d'affaires to North Korea, may be the busiest diplomat among all envoys in Seoul. He makes frequent visits to Pyongyang to prepare for the opening of the British embassy in Pyongyang.
Mr. Hoare joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British government 32 years ago. Earlier he had been stationed in Korea for five years and China for four. He wrote a book on the history of British embassies in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. Despite his knowledge and experience concerning the Korean Peninsula, he says that opening an embassy in Pyongyang will not be easier than establishing embassies in Korea, China and Japan one hundred years ago.
Currently, 146 countries have diplomatic relations with North Korea. But only 23 countries have embassies in Pyongyang. For many countries, embassies in Beijing serve as the door to the North.
Mr. Hoare, who said it is meaningful that Seoul, not Beijing, is the outpost for opening the British embassy in Pyongyang, gave no definite date for the embassy and when he will move to North Korea with his family.
Jin Chang-ook, editor of Newsweek's Korea edition, met recently with Mr. Hoare for an interview.
Jin: When will the British embassy in Pyongyang start full operations? How many diplomats will work in Pyongyang?
Hoare: We will start with five British diplomats. The rest of the staff will be North Koreans. We have not fixed either an embassy building or the official residences for the staff. Even if the buildings are prepared, we still have to set forth an operation scheme. In addition to all the preparation, whether the mood of inter-Korean reconciliation will develop further or not will be an important factor. I hope everything goes well through autumn this year.
Jin: Have you decided on the site or buildings for the embassy? How is preparation proceeding for the official residence?
Hoare: It is not easy to find an appropriate building. Therefore, we are currently reviewing a plan to move into the German or Swedish embassy for the time being. British diplomats, including myself, will stay in Koryo Hotel for a while.
Jin: Why is it that the charge d'affaires to Pyongyang resides in Seoul most of time?
Hoare: I stayed in Pyongyang for two weeks early this month and will visit Pyongyang in May. Until the embassy building is set up for operation, I will stay in Seoul and visit Pyongyang frequently.
Jin: Does North Korea have a plan to establish a resident embassy in London?
Hoare: It is my understanding that the North Korean ambassador to Geneva will also serve as the ambassador to the United Kingdom. The ultimate goal for both Britain and North Korea is, of course, to establish embassies in each other's country.
Jin: The United Kingdom is moving quickly to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea, compared with other European countries, including France. What is your expectations on the North?
Hoare: Forming diplomatic relations is very different from commercial trade, in which parties involved reckon on what to give and what to take. Establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea is to improve relations between the two countries, a part of the usual diplomatic courtesy.
Jin: John Kerr, the British permanent undersecretary of state, visited Pyongyang last month and mentioned that he was trying to bring British-style English to the North. Tell us about the status or development of such programs.
Hoare: The British government will support the program to diffuse British English in the North. Two English instructors have been dispatched to Kim Il-sung University already. We plan to send an additional instructor to Kim Hyung-jik University. We are thinking of a study abroad program for North Korean students to study in the United Kingdom. We do not have a plan to open the British Council in Pyongyang yet, the British embassy in Beijing will handle similar duties.
Jin: How many British citizens are living in Pyongyang?
Hoare: Twelve British citizens currently live in Pyongyang. Most of them are from UN organizations, including the United Nations Development Program. There is no British citizen living in Pyongyang for personal purposes. Euro-Asian Business Consultancy Ltd, a British consulting company, has its office in Pyongyang, but the Seoul branch manager is responsible for operations in the North, as well. The office in Pyongyang is operated by a North Korean staff.
Jin: Have you asked North Korea to loosen restrictions for British diplomats? Have you ever asked the North to permit British diplomats to travel through Panmunjom on trips between Seoul and Pyongyang?
Hoare: We, of course, requested an easing of restrictions for British diplomats and reporters in Pyongyang. If an opportunity comes, we hope to travel between Seoul and Pyongyang through Panmunjom.
Compiled by our staff writer Ser Myo-ja.
by James Hoare