&#91EDITORIALS&#93Ministry’s aborted rescue

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Ministry’s aborted rescue

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade reportedly planned to send a senior ministry official to Bulgaria to plead mercy on behalf of the arrested son of Kim Un-yong, a member of the International Olympic Committee, but suddenly scrapped the idea. A U.S. district attorney has indicted Mr. Kim’s son in connection with his unlawful activity during the 2002 winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City. Interpol arrested him in Bulgaria in May. Mr. Kim reportedly asked the ministry to help set his son free or else South Korea might not be able to host the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
One can understand how desperate Mr. Kim must have been to save his son from criminal prosecution. But the problem lies in the Foreign Ministry’s behavior. It originally planned to send the deputy foreign minister to Bulgaria to plead the son’s case. But after Mr. Kim was accused of being more interested in becoming the IOC’s vice president than bringing the winter games to Pyeongchang, the ministry cancelled the plan yesterday, just a day before the scheduled departure of the deputy foreign minister to Bulgaria.
When was the last time the Foreign Ministry exerted so much effort to protect Korean citizens abroad? The case of Seok Jae-hyun, the Korean photographer who was arrested in China while filming North Korean refugees has long been an international humanitarian issue. Has the Foreign Ministry ever said a word to the Chinese government on behalf of Mr. Seok? When Koreans abroad were mistreated by foreign governments, did Korean diplomats do anything to defend them? Korean diplomats themselves should know the answer to this question.
How could the ministry spare a senior diplomat to defend Mr. Kim’s son? What would the Bulgarian authorities think of the Korean government trying to defend someone charged with crime? This could have been dealt with at the ambassadorial level. The government cannot escape criticism that it protects the powerful no matter what they do, and ignores the weak. A sigh of relief that the plan was cancelled; at least Korea was spared from becoming humiliated internationally.
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