Gov’t won’t pay for overseas rescues

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Gov’t won’t pay for overseas rescues

Koreans who get in trouble overseas will have to reimburse the government for any money it spends assisting them, according to an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday.

The government, which is drafting a bill on the protection of Koreans overseas, is planning to insert the condition in the act, the official said.

Until now, Koreans have been eligible for state protection according to the Constitution, which stipulates that the government has a duty to protect its people overseas. But each situation has been handled on a case-by-case basis.

On Dec. 14, the Foreign Ministry held a public hearing on the new law.

“At the hearing,” the official said, “the government announced a plan that gives it the right to indemnity when it is required to spend money protecting people overseas.”

Under the plan, relatives of the people in trouble overseas will have to send funds to the local diplomatic post for a rescue or other kinds of aid, the official said. If they can’t pay it immediately, the diplomatic post will pay and bill the family later.

The government has been criticized in some cases for spending money on helping Koreans who get in trouble abroad, such as when a group of 23 Koreans from a Protestant church in Bundang, south of Seoul, were abducted by terrorists on a trip to Afghanistan. The government had warned them against making the trip.

Two were killed by the kidnappers, and the others returned home.

The ministry official said the new law will also exempt the government from protecting Koreans with dual citizenship in some cases. For instance, if a Korean with U.S. citizenship is involved in an incident in the United States, the Korean government will not take measures to protect the individual. If the incident takes place in a third country, however, the government will assist, the official said.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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