Gov’t launches probe into handling of Japan pact

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Gov’t launches probe into handling of Japan pact

Amid mounting criticism over the Korean government’s poor handling of a planned military pact with Japan, the Blue House yesterday launched an investigation into officials at ministries and the presidential office to determine who is responsible for secretly endorsing the deal at the cabinet meeting last week.

“A probe is currently underway,” an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told reporters yesterday. “Regarding who is to take responsibility over the matter, we will have to wait for the results of the investigation.”

The official said that the probe, being led by the presidential office, will target officials at the foreign affairs and defense ministries, the Blue House and the Board of Audit and Inspection.

Last Friday, Korea had planned to sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan that lays out a procedural framework for exchanging military information between the two countries.

Korea has already signed similar military intelligence-sharing deals with 24 other countries, including Russia. At the last minute, however, the Foreign Ministry officially announced that it will postpone the signing of the military pact due to strong political outcry and adverse public sentiment. The related passage of the deal had been passed by both cabinets of Korea and Japan.

Ever since the postponement of the signing, there have been mounting accusations that the Korean government tried to push the pact through without enough public support.

Anti-Japanese sentiment is still strong in Korea against its former colonial ruler from 1910 to 1945.

The matter has turned into a “blame game” between the Foreign Ministry and the Blue House. The government-wide investigation also comes as a local newspaper quoted a senior official at the presidential office saying that “the Foreign Ministry was eventually behind the idea of the secretive passage for the pact.”

The senior official pointed the finger at Cho Sei-young, director general at the Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau.

“I feel deeply responsible for failing to smoothly proceed with working-level matters,” Cho was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.

He, however, denied the allegation that he led the covert approval of the pact at the cabinet meeting.

“Depending on the result of the probe, there could be someone who will be held accountable,” said an official from the Foreign Ministry.

By Lee Eun-joo[angie@joongang.co.kr]

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