Critics slam consulship choices

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Critics slam consulship choices


Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan appears at a committee hearing yesterday at the National Assembly, where the scandal involving a suspected Chinese spy was among the topics discussed. By Kim Hyung-soo

The Lee Myung-bak administration is under mounting criticism over the alleged love-affair scandal involving a Chinese woman and three former Korean consuls in Shanghai.

Critics are saying Lee’s tendency to offer consulships as a reward to his aides is to blame for producing unprofessional diplomats, who they are worried may have leaked information.

Two of the three consuls were sent by non-Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade government agencies and were under the management of former Consul General Kim Jung-ki, formerly Lee’s political aide.

Kim, who has called himself a politician-turned-diplomat, was a global policy chief for Lee when Lee ran for president in 2007. He also served as Lee’s envoy to China because he was a research professor at Peking University.

He was appointed consul general to Shanghai in June 2008 and served for the two years and nine months before returning to Korea last month. Critics are saying such politician-turned-diplomats have little expertise in diplomacy and tend to make poor decisions, which could significantly hurt the country. “Many consul generals don’t know about diplomacy so they have to resort to outsiders to get things done. That leads to this kind of problem,” said Park Sun-young, a lawmaker from the Liberty Forward Party.

Examples of the political “in club” are Kim Jae-soo, a former consul general in Los Angeles, and Lee Ha-ryong, former consul general in Seattle. Both were Grand National Party politicians before getting selected for the posts. And Lee’s plan to send a Korean-American who had helped in his election campaign as general consul in Atlanta was dropped due to public opposition.

Gu Sang-chan, a GNP lawmaker, said the consul generals in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China, were former politicians with little diplomatic experience. “This kind of case cannot but happen because there are no career diplomats [serving as consul generals] at major diplomatic posts overseas,” Gu said.

The Board of Audit and Inspection pointed out lax management at the Korean consulate in Shanghai in 2008 and 2009. The BAI said the consulate was found to have issued visas to 12 Chinese who submitted forged documents in September 2008 alone. Eleven other visas were issued by the consulate in March 2006 on fake documents, the BAI said.

“The Prime Minister’s Office conducted an investigation of the Shanghai case and demanded related agencies take measures against any violations of the ethics code and the agencies are now working on it,” Blue House spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung told reporters. “The government will form a joint-investigation team and will take stern action.”

Kim said the joint investigation will be expanded to the Korean consulate in Shanghai.

Another Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo that the joint investigation will also cover newly surfaced suspicions raised by the Korean media. “I feel sorry for this scandalous incident,” said Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan at a National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee meeting yesterday, promising reforms at diplomatic posts overseas.

By Kim Su-jeong, Moon Gwang-lip []

Related Korean Article[중앙일보]

MB '보은인사'가 한국판 '색계' 재앙 불렀다

'보은 인사'가 외교 재앙 불렀다

중국 상하이 주재 한국 총영사관 소속 영사들과 30대 중국인 여성 덩신밍(鄧新明·등신명·33)의 스캔들은 이명박 정부의 보은(報恩) 인사가 빚어낸 외교 재앙이라는 지적이 나오고 있다. 영사들이 현지 여성과 부적절한 관계를 맺고 나서 비자를 부정 발급해주고 우리 정부 및 공관과 관련한 정보를 유출한 사건을 저지른 것은 외교 경험이 없는 인사가 공관 지휘를 맡았기 때문 아니냐는 것이다.
중국통인 한나라당 구상찬 의원은 9일 국회 외교통상위 회의에서 “외교관 출신은 외교적 관례를 중요시하지만 정치인은 단칼에 문제를 해결하려 하고, 외교적 관점으로 풀어야 할 문제를 정치적 시각으로 보는 속성이 있다”고 말했다. 자유선진당 박선영 의원은 “한나라당에 몸을 담았던 사람들에게 (공관장직을 주는) 보은 인사를 했기 때문에 이런 문제가 생긴 것”이라 고 지적했다. 최종건 연세대(정치외교학) 교수는 “해외 공관장을 꼭 외교관 출신으로 채워야 하는 건 아니다”며 “그러나 발탁 인사를 하더라도 외교적 역량을 갖춘 사람을 써야 한다”고 말했다.

김정기 총영사는 2007년 대선 때 이명박 한나라당 대통령 후보 서울선거대책위 조직본부장과 국제위원장을 지냈다. 2008년 이명박 정부가 출범한 그해 6월 상하이 총영사로 발령받았다. 당시 외교부 일각에서 ‘측근 챙겨주기’라는 비판이 나왔지만 그가 이 대통령 직계로 알려져 있었기 때문에 외교부에서도 문제 삼지 못했다. 김 총영사는 상하이로 간 뒤 국정원 소속인 부총영사 J씨와 갈등을 빚는 등 리더십을 제대로 발휘하지 못했다고 외교부의 한 관계자는 주장했다. 관리 책임자인 김 총영사의 역량 부족이 문제였다는 얘기다. 김 총영사는 공관에 파견된 영사들이 수년간 덩의 덫에 걸려 비자발급과 관련된 탈법행위를 저지르고, 불륜 논란에 휩싸이는 상황에서 이를 수습, 통제하지 못했다. 이를 지켜본 상하이 교민 사회의 비난이 비등했는데도 사태를 제대로 파악하지 못한 채 덩의 힘에 기대 자신의 외교활동과 민원을 해결하려 했다는 게 외교가의 얘기다.

2008년 초 정부는 김 총영사와 함께 대선 때 이명박 후보를 도운 인사들을 대거 해외공관장으로 발령냈다. 캠프 선거대책위 비서 출신으로 미국 시민권자인 이웅길씨는 애틀랜타 총영사로 내정됐다가 현지 교민들의 항의를 받고 자진 사퇴하기도 했다.   

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