Valuing diplomacy

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Valuing diplomacy

The government has unveiled a plan to establish a foreign service academy to educate professionals seeking careers in the field of international diplomacy. The two-year school will begin accepting students in 2011 for training in language, regional affairs, the economy, trade and multilateral diplomacy.

The move will create more opportunities for career diplomats, who have so far been selected through a competitive annual national exam. The institute may bring new life to the diplomatic world here, which has long been criticized as reclusive and too elite.

Geographically and demographically, we are a relatively small nation. Throughout our history, we have been prone to invasions and threats.

These unavoidable shortcomings call for an exceptional mastery of diplomacy. History is full of examples demonstrating that good diplomacy can be more powerful than arms.

Admiral Seo Hui of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) went against the empire’s decision to relinquish Goryeo territory to invaders from the Khitan Empire and braved a private talk with the head of the enemy forces to win back six states east of the Yalu River in the northeastern region.

Modern diplomatic landmarks that have facilitated relations with the outside world include President Syngman Rhee’s mutual security pact with the United States in 1953 and President Roh Tae-woo’s diplomatic breakthrough in the 1990s following the normalization of ties with China and Russia as well as joint United Nations membership with North Korea.

But today the state of Korean diplomacy is rated as poor in the international community. Our diplomatic style lacks professionalism and is too often emotional and inconsistent.

About two years ago, the JoongAng Ilbo suggested we set up an academy to incubate and train career diplomats, using as a benchmark Brazil and other nations of similar size that value diplomacy and educate their diplomats in elite institutions.

We hope the new Korean institute will pave the way for an era of practical diplomacy that will give us a more favorable reputation in the international community.
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