Seoul sending envoy to Nobel event

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Seoul sending envoy to Nobel event

Korea’s government has decided to attend a ceremony to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to a jailed Chinese dissident later this week, a diplomatic source said yesterday, despite China’s opposition to countries supporting the honoree.

China’s protest against the decision to give the prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo had put Korea in a diplomatic quandary over whether to attend the Dec. 10 ceremony in Oslo, Norway, amid concern that the move could have negative effects on relations with Beijing.

The conundrum demonstrated China’s rising influence in the region. China is South Korea’s No. 1 trade partner and a key neighbor that hosts the six-party talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Despite the concerns, however, South Korea has decided to stick to its past practice of sending its diplomat stationed in Norway to attend the event, the source said on condition of anonymity. “It is our basic position that we respect the Nobel Committee’s decision,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said during a press briefing earlier in the day. “The South Korean government will follow past practices regarding the award ceremony.”

“We recently informed the Nobel Committee that the South Korean ambassador to Norway will attend the ceremony as a Korean representative,” said a diplomat yesterday.

Liu, a 54-year-old writer and former professor who is currently serving 11 years in jail for subversion, was awarded the peace prize in October. He was jailed last December after authoring an appeal for political reform in one-party China. He was a student leader at the demonstrations at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Beijing has strongly denounced the Nobel Committee, calling Liu a “criminal.”

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