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[Editorial] Presidential Diplomacy is Held Hostage by Divisions

[Editorial] Presidential Diplomacy is Held Hostage by Divisions

Posted January. 13, 2004 23:31,   


The probes by the presidential office into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) over anti-president remarks by some officials are not simple matters that can be patched up with a disciplinary measure against two MOFAT officials.

The government should find the fundamental reason why front-line diplomats have shown antipathy toward President Roh Moo-hyun and his office in order to prevent the recurrence of the same incident. Didn’t the incident show that the officials who conducted the daily business of diplomacy did not trust President Roh and his aides? The solution must not stop at disciplining the officials who made the controversial remarks but should include a thoroughly critical review of the government’s international policy which failed to win trust from front-line diplomats.

Most of all, it is urgent to address the conflict between the National Security Council (NSC) and the MOFAT. There is nothing strange about the difference in view over issues between officials. However, wise diplomacy means the synthesis of diverse views and the balance between ideal and reality. The exchange of opinions was lost when some diplomats fingered the NSC as Taliban and when the presidential office started investigations into the MOFAT.

If one party is held unilaterally responsible for the incident then the solution will be hard to come by. If the NSC/MOFAT conflict put the country’s diplomacy in trouble, the fundamental responsibility will lie with the president. In the same context, Rep. Shin Ki-nam of the Uri Party was reckless when he condemned the diplomats responsible for U.S. policy as knee-jerkers to the U.S. Will it effectively be to insult ourselves when we attack diplomats who were under the president’s supervision as U.S. lackeys? Stigmatizing and taking sides will just further divide the country and make diplomacy more difficult.

If the MOFAT is the only one to be blamed, it will further shake Korean diplomacy. President Roh should resolve the incident as a strictly impartial judge. If he wants his diplomatic efforts to prevail, he should earn trust from the front-line diplomats.