Ineligible diplomats were sent overseas

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Ineligible diplomats were sent overseas

More skeletons fell out of the closet for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday when a senior official told the JoongAng Ilbo that all 22 staffers hired through special selection processes from 1997 to 2004 were sent abroad for training in violation of the ministry’s own regulations.

An official from the Ministry of Public Administration and Security who helped oversee recruitment at the Foreign Ministry during this period told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that improper foreign training stemmed from ministry officials’ favoritism and greed.

The special selection process was implemented in 1997, exempting some Foreign Ministry applicants from taking the standard entrance exam. The intention was to find staffers who already had good language skills and experience abroad. Applicants for special selection were required to have “more than six years of education above the elementary-school level outside of Korea.”

The process generated controversy from the start about whether it was intended to favor children of diplomats and was abolished in 2004.

From 1997 to 2004, nine of the 22 staffers hired were children of high-ranking diplomatic officials.

Those who were hired through special selection were not permitted to go on government-authorized trips for training abroad because they already had experience living abroad. But the ministry ignored its own regulation and sent all 22 staffers overseas for training for several years at a time.

“They had no need to go abroad because they were already raised abroad,” the official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It was out of greed and I was against the decision until the end. I feel responsible as a public servant for what happened but I stand firm in my opinion that it happened out of greed.

“There was a lot of conflict over this because sending these already good English speakers abroad took away other people’s chances to learn abroad.”

At the time, the ministry said the 22 selected for foreign training were “good at English, but needed more understanding of the outside world.”

To get over recent hiring and nepotism scandals, the Foreign Ministry asked all its workers starting Monday to give anonymous tips of wrongdoing related to recruitment.

As of yesterday, employees sent 16 e-mails - nine of them were anonymous. The Foreign Ministry is expecting more.


By Chun Su-jin, Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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