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[Editorial] They Don`t Even Know When Their Own Citizen Has Been Killed

[Editorial] They Don`t Even Know When Their Own Citizen Has Been Killed

Posted October. 29, 2001 09:07,   


Korean national Mr. Shin (41) was executed in China on September 25. The news that the Korean government received information about the execution only on October 26, a whole month after his death, has shocked many people. Mr. Chung (62), who was arrested with Mr. Shin, died from illness in November of last year while in prison, but the Korean government found this out last June, seven months since his death. Mr. Shin and Chung were arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997 for producing methamphetamine and smuggling out minerals.

It is shocking enough to hear that a Korean national was executed in a foreign country for the first time, but it is beyond comprehension that the lines of communication between Korea and China should be so unclear even with the 9 year diplomatic relations between the two countries.

This leads us to question the kind of work that our diplomats have been carrying out in China. There is a Korean embassy in Beijing and a consulate office in Shenyang, Heilongjiang Province where Mr. Shin was arrested. One of the main duties of government officials stationed abroad is to protect fellow citizens resident in that country. For this purpose, the nations of the world subscribe to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which guarantees the protection of nationals abroad and makes it possible for diplomats to help nationals living in the foreign nation. Even if the individuals in this case were criminals, they have the right to receive protection.

According to Korean Embassy in China, the Shenyang consulate made official inquiries to the foreign affairs office in Heilongjiang last June in order to get information on Mr. Shin`s situation. Yet, all that the consulate did was to make a couple of phone calls and make inquiries. If the Korean diplomat went to the Chinese government office and made a concerted effort to meet Mr. Shin directly, this situation probably could have been avoided. The consulate seriously neglected its duty if it ignored the fact that a life was at stake and it wanted to avoid a case in which a convicted criminal was involved.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade must conduct a complete investigation into whether the Korean Embassy and Shenyang consulate carried out their responsibilities to the full. If they are found to be `slacking off` they must bear the full responsibility for what happened and measures must be taken to ensure that nothing like this will happen again.

It is deplorable, too, that the Chinese government communicated the news of execution at such a late point in time. If an American or a Japanese citizen was executed, the Chinese government would not come out with such a nonchalant attitude. The Korean government must demand an explanation for the delayed communication from the Chinese government and thoroughly think through the reasons why the Chinese government has treated Korea with such disregard.