Time for a new kind of diplomacyThe Korea National Diplomatic Academy officially opened yesterday in what is a major step toward revamping the way our diplomats are selected. The existing method of selecting diplomats through the government-run Foreign Service Examination has not been able to effectively pick talented individuals to act as our representatives overseas.
In 2007, the JoongAng Ilbo proposed the creation of the Seo Hee Diplomatic Academy. An outstanding general and diplomat during the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392), Seo Hee successfully recovered parts of North Pyongan Province after a skillful negotiation with the Kitan, who had occupied the area after an attack in 993. We hope the diplomatic institute will produce a new breed of talented diplomats equipped with similar skills.
It is regrettable, however, that the new academy strayed from the original proposal in some ways. For instance, it was developed as a one-year educational institute for practical affairs instead of a two-year graduate school system like those in place in many developed countries.
The government didn’t make the full change to a two-year program because of intense pressure from bureaucrats who feared losing their control over selecting high-level civil servants. There is also a naive respect for career diplomats who have passed the Foreign Service Examination at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Still, the official launch of the academy carries great significance. Korea has repeatedly been involved in terrible wars for geopolitical reasons. It is surrounded by powerful countries, including China and Japan. Even now, it is placed in a delicate position as it walks a tightrope between the United States and China. When the two countries disagree with each other, we are forced to take sides in considering our very survival. But we should have the wisdom to turn these crises into tools for our future development, becoming involved in these situations only as they benefit us. That’s why we need a group of qualified diplomats who can look at the big picture and put smart strategies into action.
The curriculum of the new academy is not sufficient to meet such a daunting challenge. The school’s administration should increase the number of admitted students from the current 60 and also extend the time it spends to train students. We look forward to seeing a new generation of highly competent diplomats emerge from the institute to open a new diplomatic chapter and a promising future for our country.