Ministry to crack down on hijinks at missions

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Ministry to crack down on hijinks at missions

The foreign ministry has stepped up on-site inspections of diplomatic missions overseas following incidents of misbehavior and ethical lapses by diplomats, an official said yesterday.

The ministry was hit by a nepotism scandal involving former minister Yu Myung-hwan in late 2010. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Yu’s successor, declared a zero-tolerance policy on lapses by diplomats, but critics say his efforts to overhaul the ministry have not progressed far enough.

In the latest case, a senior diplomat in Auckland was suspended from regular duties last week amid accusations of scuffling with a fellow Korean official posted in New Zealand and sexually harassing female embassy staff.

“We plan to conduct on-site inspections of 35 overseas missions this year,” the official told Yonhap News Agency by telephone, adding that less than 20 missions per year were usually subject to such inspections.

“If inspections find any irregularities or misbehavior, the ministry will impose the toughest punishment, based on a zero-tolerance policy,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Last November, a consul general in the Russian city of Irkutsk was summoned home for being drunk and behaving in an offensive manner at a public dinner. Another consul general in the Chinese city of Wuhan was also summoned home over accusations of inappropriate accounting.

Meanwhile, the ministry recently encouraged its officials at home to take leave ahead of the summer vacation season.

Senior-level officials are apparently refraining from taking leave after the ministry drew fire for mishandling a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, according to ministry officials.

The signing of the pact was aborted at the last minute.

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