Foreign Ministry Trying to Fix Blame for Blunders in China

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Foreign Ministry Trying to Fix Blame for Blunders in China

The South Korean government is thinking over the scope and scale of censure expected against its diplomatic officials involved in the diplomatic bungling over the execution of a 41-year-old South Korean drug trafficker in China.

"Our official, who had been dispatched to China to look into the case, has returned and briefed Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo," said a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Sunday. "We will take grave censure measures against those found responsible."

Mr. Han is attending the ASEAN+3 summit in Brunei and will return Tuesday. The ministry is expected to announce on Wednesday whom they are calling to account for the embarrassing diplomatic blunder against the Chinese government.

The ministry is reviewing the chain of command at the South Korean diplomatic missions in China ?specifically, the embassy in Beijing and the Shenyang consulate in Heilungjiang province ?since September 1997, when Shin Ok-doo, the executed narcotics trafficker, was arrested along with three accomplices by Chinese authorities. Korea accused China of failing to notify it of Mr. Shin's subsequent trial and execution, then had to back down Friday when the Chinese produced proof that they had duly informed Seoul.

Following a sharp rebuff from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Seoul admitted that it indeed had received notification of the first trial proceedings scheduled for Jan. 11, 1999, and the court approval of the Mr. Shin's execution on Sept. 25, 2001. The Chinese Foreign Minister Zhu Bangzao said, "The Chinese government hopes the ROK government will stop this sort of groundless accusation."

Just how high up the chain of command the ministry will look to place responsibility poses a dilemma for Seoul. Foreign Minister Han in September began serving a one-year chairmanship of the U.N. General Assembly. The then-South Korean ambassador to Beijing is the current unification minister, Hong Soon-young, and will be South Korea's chief delegate to the inter-Korean ministerial dialogue planned for this weekend at Mount Geumgang, North Korea.

Meanwhile, Mr. Han and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, agreed in Brunei to sign a consular agreement that details expedient notification of treatment of criminals and protection of citizens.

by Lee Young-jong

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