Shame on our Foreign Ministry

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Shame on our Foreign Ministry

The lame response by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after the Sunday attack on Korea’s embassy in Tripoli that resulted in the deaths of two local guards, is beyond belief. The ministry told reporters that Korean ambassador to Libya Lee Jong-kook was handling the situation from a temporary office in Tunis, Tunisia. But it turns out Lee had already completed his tenure and was back in Korea.

Furthermore, the ministry’s department on Africa and Middle East affairs only determined Lee’s whereabouts late the following day, after the envoy called to correct media reports. On the same day, Lee’s successor arrived in Tripoli. Even as its overseas mission came under attack by armed forces, the country’s Foreign Ministry didn’t bother to keep track of its envoy or check up on him. It’s the ministry’s duty to oversee the safety of its embassy staff and Korean nationals overseas. It is utterly embarrassing that the ministry didn’t even call the ambassador, who could have been in danger, or release accurate information to the public.

The circumstances in the Middle East and North Africa have become extremely unsettling due to the increasing influence of the Islamic State (ISIS), which has expanded beyond Syria and Iraq to Libya, Nigeria, Kenya and Tunisia. The bloody fight in Yemen between the Sunni and Shiite tribes has already turned into a full-scale civil war. As a result, employees from the Korean embassy in Yemen have moved from the capital, Sanaa, to work on the Korean warship Chunghae, which is deployed in Aden Bay as a part of the Combined Task Force.

The safety and interests of the Korean people in most of the Middle East are at risk. The Foreign Ministry must be fully alert to prepare for and effectively address any emergency situation down the road. But first, it must restore discipline at home before looking after Korean nationals worldwide.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 15, Page 30

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