[EDITORIALS]Diplomatic failure in IraqThe utter flimsiness of Korea’s diplomatic powers has become the subject of the entire nation’s scrutiny due to the tragic death of Kim Sun-il. The home page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Web site is almost covered with letters of protest. The protesters ask the ministry to reflect on itself, its lack of diplomatic ability and the sorry level of its negotiating skills.
The decision to deploy additional troops to Iraq was made nine months ago, and the troops of the Seohee and Jaema units have already been replaced by new soldiers twice. There are more than 10,000 Koreans in the Middle East, and there are 19 Korean embassies or consular offices in the area. It has been 30 years since Seoul opened its first diplomatic mission in the Middle East.
In spite of that, the government has been seen running around in confusion without a source of information in Iraq. The Foreign Ministry blames its lack of personnel whenever large-scale incidents occur. But it is doubtful that the ministry is utilizing its existing manpower efficiently.
In the Korean embassy in Baghdad, which will soon be involved in the deployment of 3,000 additional troops, there is literally no expert diplomat with a command of Arabic and expertise on Iraq. Surprisingly, only one staff member speaks Arabic at all. With such limited capacities, how could the embassy gather information and assess the local atmosphere? We wonder to what extent the embassy has figured out the local situation, and to what degree it has established networks of local contacts. Consequently, it has occured to us to wonder whether the government could have found a proper channel for negotiation even if it had learned of Kim Sun-il’s kidnapping sooner.
The voices demanding a total review of our diplomatic structure are raised high. More urgently needed is complete change in the embassy in Baghdad. Under the present circumstances, we cannot have confidence in the safety of our troops deployed in Iraq. To correct the problems that have been exposed, the embassy must equip itself with multidimensional, high-level diplomatic capability. Maintaining close cooperative relations with the United States, which has the highest intelligence capabilities, is greatly needed.