Diplomatic incidentsThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to make diplomatic blunders. After receiving complaints from Latvian Embassy, the ministry hurriedly changed the wording of a press release where it had referred to the country as a Balkan state. Enraged, Latvian Ambassador Peteris Vaivars reportedly lamented our Foreign Ministry’s discourtesy and conveyed his concerns to other ambassadors. We are dumbfounded: that is same as referring to South Korea as a Southeast Asian country. We cannot brush it off as a simple misspelling.
The Moon Jae-in administration has made one diplomatic mistake after another over the last 23 months. When President Moon visited the Czech Republic last November, it called the country Czechoslovakia. During his state visit to Cambodia, the Blue House’s social media pages posted a picture of a culture center in Taiwan. During a recent trip to Malaysia, Moon said greetings in Indonesian, not to mention proposing a toast in Brunei, a Islamic country where drinking alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited. That’s not all. During the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Belgium last October, Moon could not join a group photo session as he did not get on the elevator in time.
Episodes of this kind would not take place if the Foreign Ministry and the Blue House were filled with diplomatic experts and prudent bureaucrats. The diplomatic fiasco owes much to the lax discipline and incompetence of Blue House staffers, as well as a lack of leadership among senior officials there. Nevertheless, an administrator of presidential protocols came up with counterattacks, saying, “Mentioning diplomatic discourtesy without any complaints from other countries itself is discourtesy to them.”
External conditions are worsening fast. Since the collapse of the Feb. 28 U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, our alliance with the United States is showing signs of strain, while Seoul-Tokyo relations have hit the bottom and Seoul-Beijing ties are not smooth either. Yet our Foreign Ministry has been repeating diplomatic fumbles at the most basic levels rather than skillfully coping with a plethora of challenges from abroad.
All the problems are related to the Blue House’s predominance in diplomacy to the extent that it directly handles diplomatic affairs after skipping the Foreign Ministry. The Blue House forced a number of career diplomats to step down under the banner of “rooting out past evils,” and appointed Moon campaign aides as ambassadors to major countries. Mature diplomacy is impossible — it is time to revamp the Foreign Ministry, including its head, Kang Kyung-wha.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 4, Page 30