The scandal in Shanghai

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The scandal in Shanghai

It sounds like a steamy soap opera involving infidelity, secrets and a femme fatale. It turned out that several diplomats at the Korean Consulate in Shanghai had affairs with the same local woman. They provided lots of favors for her. We are dumbfounded at their disgraceful behavior. As diplomats representing Korea, their first responsibility is to avoid any behavior that may bring humiliation to the country.

China is one of the most difficult - and crucial - arenas for our diplomacy because we have many important issues at stake. It’s also a country that always keeps a close watch on what foreigners do in its land, let alone its notoriety for playing hardball for its national interests.

Those diplomats should have acted very prudently in their consular services in particular. As the number of Chinese who aspire to migrate to Korea for jobs soars, consulates became a destination for them to seek favors - paid for corruptly. As it turns out, all of the diplomats involved in the scandal were consuls, and the Chinese woman in question turned out to be a local visa broker.

But one despicable behavior was followed by another and another.

Although the diplomats’ affairs with the woman made them laughing stocks within the Korean community in Shanghai, they issued visas for her and handed over their internal documents detailing personnel information and visa issuance records. The episode turned into a farce in which Korean diplomats became de facto spies for China.

The way the scandal was disclosed was even more problematic. After it leaked among the Korean community in Shanghai last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade summoned the diplomats back to headquarters. The ministry, however, didn’t mete out appropriate punishments to any of them and the scandal was covered up. But an informant tipped off the prime minister’s office. And then it only requested the related ministries to admonish the envoys after a month-long internal investigation.

However, what has been revealed so far may be just the tip of the iceberg. The government should now take steps to investigate and correct the moral standards of our diplomats as well as all the problems associated with the issuance of visas in our overseas consulates.

The Blue House, the Board of Audit and Inspection and the National Intelligence Service, if necessary, must also roll up their sleeves to prevent a repeat of such shameful activities by our diplomats in the future.
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