[EDITORIALS]Tragic death, inept handlingNew evidence and new developments daily on the abduction and beheading of Kim Sun-il in Iraq are frustrating the public. Unanswered questions about whether the South Korean Foreign Ministry did not know what was going on or whether they knew but covered it up are confusing and fueling suspicion.
The biggest question about Mr. Kim’s death is just exactly when he was abducted and whether the government knew it. The government initially announced that Mr. Kim was abducted on June 17, but now it is saying that it is highly possible that he may have been kidnapped on May 31. The government blames the president of Cana General Trading Co, Kim Chun-ho, for changing his statements. But the latest news is that Kim Chun-ho visited the South Korean Embassy in Iraq four times before the abduction of Kim Sun-il became public knowledge, which fuels speculation that the embassy knew of it but kept it to themselves.
Also confusing is that Associated Press Television News was given a videotape of Kim Sun-il in captivity early this month and asked the Foreign Ministry about it. The Associated Press announced that they asked the question over the phone and that they did not mention the tape. The ministry is still determining the facts, but if the Associated Press’s announcement is true, the situation is deplorable. If the ministry had immediately contacted its mission in Iraq and begun a search for Kim Sun-il, we could have learned of his abduction a lot earlier. And the government should have done all it could, diplomatically, to have him released. We cannot say with certainty whether that would have prevented his death. But if the ministry official ignored the call and let time go by, that is serious negligence.
The ministry’s ability to gather information and its crisis management in response to Kim Sun-il’s abduction was pitiful. It did not manage to cough up one bit of information on its own. The news of the abduction was first broadcast by a pan-Arabic satellite television station, and the flop of a briefing delivered to the president also relied on uncertain broadcast news.
The loose and complacent response to crisis demonstrated by the ministry should be the first target of reform. The facts must be found and reprimands issued.