Ambassador’s phone callSohn Hak-kyu, the leader of the United Democratic Party, and Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador to Korea, publicly argued over the import of U.S. beef.
Vershbow phoned Sohn to say he was disappointed that Sohn said only cattle younger than 30 months should be imported. Sohn responded that it was inappropriate of Vershbow to call the head of an opposition party and talk about party policies.
After Sohn disclosed the conversation, Vershbow said he was surprised that their private conversation was made public.
Vershbow’s remark was not appropriate for an ambassador. An ambassador can call political leaders of the country where he is stationed to express an opinion over current issues concerning the two countries.
In so doing, however, an ambassador should display diplomatic grace.
It is understandable that Vershbow was dissatisfied with Sohn’s handling of the U.S. beef issue or the free trade agreement between the United Sates and South Korea.
But it is not a proper attitude for a diplomat to directly express his “disappointment” and hassle a country’s political leader, if Sohn’s claim is true.
It is also absurd that Vershbow claims the phone conversation with Sohn was private after it was disclosed. How can a discussion over the country’s most controversial issue be private?
Sohn was no better than Vershbow. Sohn might have felt offended by Vershbow’s remark.
But disclosing the conversation was not an appropriate reaction, considering that Vershbow told Sohn that he phoned him because he did not want the conversation to be made public. There was no trust.
Sohn was probably well aware of the consequences of disclosing the conversation and the claim that a U.S. ambassador was impolite.
We cannot help but think that the disclosure was conducted with a political intent to create anti-American sentiment related to U.S. beef. Instead of becoming a dauntless leader of a nation concerned with the country’s interests, Sohn showed shallow-mindedness by disclosing his private conversation with the U.S. ambassador and pursuing his own political interest.