Try spinning less

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Try spinning less

It was wrong to leak details of a private phone conversation between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump. What government official would want to talk to anyone representing Seoul if there was a genuine concern that the conversation would go public? Opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) lawmaker Khang Hyo-sang, who exposed the details of the May 7 phone talks between Moon and Trump, drew criticism for violating the diplomatic code not only from a former conservative diplomat but also from a senior member of the LKP. The party itself officially defended Khang’s action as a means of letting the public know about the government’s kowtowing to Trump in the name of diplomacy. That’s nothing but a self-serving excuse.

The whistle-blower was a veteran diplomat serving at the Korean Embassy in Washington. Discipline and discretion are the fundamental duties of government officials. The diplomat reportedly leaked the information because of his personal relationship with the lawmaker — they were schoolmates. Moral hazard has been repeated over and over in the bureaucratic community, especially in the Foreign Ministry. The ministry had been embroiled in a series of controversies.

Politicians have also been abusing their oversight duties to expose confidential state affairs purely for their own interests. The LKP argued that former Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Jung Chung-rae also boasted of receiving “raw data” — a taped copy of a phone conversation between Moon and Trump — when he appeared on a cable television last year.

The Blue House has responded poorly. After Khang revealed that Moon asked Trump to stop by Seoul during his visit to Japan in late May, the Blue House denied there had been any discussions on a date for a stop. The Blue House then went on a witch hunt to find who leaked the information. Despite problems with the leak, it remains dubious whether the Blue House’s denial was correct.

Governments massage details of private conversations between leaders. Yet the spin became more outrageous by the Moon administration. Trump and Moon have talked on the phone 21 times about North Korea. The Blue House usually announces that Trump supports Moon’s approach, while the White House says the two governments agree to keep maximum pressure on North Korea. Some may have believed Khang’s words because of the Moon administration’s fudgings of the past. The government must spin less.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 27, Page 30
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