Attaché at embassy in Beijing summoned to Seoul for investigation
A military attaché at the Korean Embassy in Beijing was summoned to Seoul recently, marking the third instance since 2016 in which a military official was recalled from the embassy to be investigated for allegations including verbal and sexual harassment.
The attaché is alleged of harassing a staff member at the embassy, according to a military source.
“He is also being investigated for how he may have [unduly] influenced the use of the embassy budget,” the source said.
The attaché, a brigadier general, had served at the embassy from March 2020.
His summoning was almost a repeat of his predecessors’ cases.
His predecessor, also a brigadier general, was posted to the Korean Embassy in Beijing when he became embroiled in a power abuse scandal in June 2019.
He allegedly made a staff member carry out personal errands for him, often verbally abusing the staff member. The brigadier general was investigated and given an administrative censure.
And that was not even the embassy's first case of a military official being summoned for indecorum at work.
That attaché’s predecessor was summoned to Seoul to be investigated on the allegation he sexually harassed a female staff member at the embassy in November 2016. The investigation confirmed the allegation to be true and the attaché was dismissed from his post.
Military attachés are defense officials posted to embassies to coordinate bilateral or multilateral cooperation on defense. The attachés at the Korean Embassy in Beijing also work on coordinating between South Korea and China on North Korea affairs.
The Korean Embassy in Beijing usually staffs one brigadier general and three colonels, each from the Army, Navy and Air Force, according to the embassy. Their tasks have over the years come to include budget execution, auditing and staff employment.
The latest case of a military attaché being summoned to Seoul to be investigated was reported on several Chinese media outlets.
“Maybe it is time that the Chinese Foreign Ministry marks military attachés from Korea as persona non grata,” a Chinese diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday.
Some military experts see the recent harassment and abuse scandals of Korean military attachés in Beijing as serious loopholes in Korea’s diplomatic power and strategy in the region.
“At a time when the U.S.-China strategic competition is intensifying, such personnel disasters caused by a lack of discipline by the military officials posted to the diplomatic mission in Beijing, the key front on military diplomacy and intelligence regarding China and North Korea, should not be repeated,” said a former defense official. “The need to ensure such cases are not repeated is paramount.”
The Korean ambassador to China, Jang Ha-sung, is himself embroiled in a scandal concerning his younger brother’s private equity funds, though he has publicly denied any involvement.
His brother, Jang Ha-won, is being investigated by the police for alleged fraud and violation of the financial investment law.
Jang Ha-won is the CEO of Discovery Asset Management, which managed Discovery funds sold from 2017 to 2019. They were suspended of withdrawals in 2019.
He is being investigated for allegedly marketing the funds to new investors without informing them of serious structural problems. Police suspect Jang engaged in a Ponzi-scheme in running the funds.
Ambassador Jang, along with another former high-ranking Blue House official, were found to have also invested in the funds. The diplomat denied having known in advance about structural problems of the funds, or using any insider information to protect his investments.
“I did not request any redemptions after the funds were suspended of withdrawals, and I have not received any redemptions,” Jang said in a statement on Feb. 10.
Jang had invested at least 6 billion won ($5 million) in the Discovery funds as of July 2017, according to the police.
BY SHIN KYUNG-JIN, ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]