Evolution of tea time

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Evolution of tea time

The author is a national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

On June 6, the official YouTube channel of the British Royal Family uploaded a video titled “Ma’amalade sandwich, Your Majesty?” In the clip, Queen Elizabeth II is having tea with Paddington, a beloved bear character, at Buckingham Palace. The video was shown at the Platinum Jubilee event celebrating the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession. The video shows tea and Paddington as notable cultural products of Britain.

In fact, tea time started in England. Tea originated from ancient China, spread to neighboring countries in the 8th century, and was introduced to Britain and Europe in the early 17th century. But the British people have become most passionate about drinking tea. They have tea multiple times a day, elevenses around 11 a.m., afternoon tea between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., and high tea between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Koreans are unfamiliar with the English tea time, where everyone drops what they’re doing and sips tea. In Korea, “tea time” refers to casual communication and unofficial meetings. It is a useful way of communication when an official meeting is not necessary or awkward. Politicians and high-level government officials often have tea time with reporters for some casual talks.

Prosecutors also have tea time with the media. For high profile incidents or issues, prosecutors hold one or two closed-door briefings each week to take questions from reporters. But the number of tea times decreased when former Justice Minister Cho Kuk emphasized that suspected charges must not be disclosed. Then the practice was completely abolished in December 2019 when a Justice Ministry decree titled “Regulations on the Prohibition of Disclosure of Criminal Cases” came into effect. Since then, specialized PR officers, not investigating prosecutors, are in charge of public affairs in the top law enforcement agency.

Current Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon wants to revive the tea time between prosecutors and the media. It is a desirable development for people’s right to know. Restoring a system that was wrongfully removed is just as important as creating a new, good system. I hope Justice Minister Han also speeds up the appointment of a prosecutor general. Just as former National Intelligence Service chief Park Ji-won said, reorganizing the prosecution and appointing senior prosecutors without a prosecutor general in position only provokes criticism that he is serving as “the justice minister and prosecutor general” at the same time.
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