Lack of transparency or competence?

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Lack of transparency or competence?

The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Entering Beijing is not easy. It takes more than 10 hours to travel the two-hour distance. An airline website even showed that flights from the Incheon International Airport were sold out. For six months, air travel to China — the biggest trade partner of Korea — has been blocked.

Changes to air travel between Korea and China is always a topic of interest at the weekly press briefing at the Korean Embassy in Beijing. At the conference last week, an embassy official said that Hyundai Motor was working to send a charter flight and that it would be a meaningful start in Beijing. He also said that China was positive about the charter flight deal after Politburo member Yang Jiechi visited Korea and discussed personal exchanges. I would have written an article headlined “First Result since Yang Jiechi’s Visit to Korea … Hyundai Motors Opens the Sky to Beijing.”

But it didn’t happen as expected. The first flight to land in Beijing on Sept. 3 was not a Korean charter flight but a Cambodian flight. Regular flights from eight countries — Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Canada — were allowed to operate flights to Beijing. Korea was not included.

Hyundai Motor’s charter flight to Beijing would be a meaningful accomplishment. The problem was that the Korean embassy didn’t understand the situation at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). Instead, they misjudged the situation as being favorable to Korea. I am concerned about the Korean government’s basic intelligence capabilities in the diplomatic field.

Why has Korea been excluded from the countries allowed to send regular flights? On selecting the eight countries, the CAAC said they were chosen as the countries with less Covid-19 patients inflow. China has not released data on Covid-19 case inflow from each country. Instead, the WHO’s Covid-19 data show that Canada has 131,124 cases, with 741 new cases on Sept. 2. Sweden, which failed in its herd immunity experiment, has 84,985 cases and new cases in the double digits. Pakistan, an ally of China, has 298,509 cases.

I asked the embassy why Korea was excluded from the regular flights to Beijing. I was given a vague answer — “possibly due to the aggravating latest development in Korea.” It is up to the Chinese government to approve flights. Solutions can be found only when we know the precise grounds for the selection and why some countries are allowed, but Korea is not. Is China not transparent? Or is Korea lacking competence?

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