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“Stabilizing Iraq with Korea as the Development Model”

“Stabilizing Iraq with Korea as the Development Model”

Posted February. 24, 2005 22:48,   


Chang Gi-ho (60), Korea’s ambassador to Iraq, left for the Korean embassy in Iraq in mid-December last year. Shortly before his inauguration, he called himself, “an awfully lucky guy.” He said jokingly, “Iraq will be stabilized with my presence there.”

On February 24, around two months after his inauguration, Jang returned to Seoul. It was a short visit for an overseas missions meeting. Asked, “Is Iraq really stabilized?” he answered, laughing, “Perhaps coincidentally, but the security situation in Iraq seems to be stabilizing ever since the general elections (which took place on January 30).”

-It must be hard to decide to work in Iraq-

“Some thirty years ago, I was first dispatched to the mission to Saudi Arabia. I decided to fly to Saudi Arabia in two days after I saw the movie, Lawrence of Arabia (laugh). But I was very prudent in deciding this time. Normally, the most experienced ambassadors go to disputed regions like Iraq, as missions there should cover both diplomacy and military issues. I believed that Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon wanted to stress the meaning when he proposed the post of ambassador to Iraq to me. I enthusiastically accepted the proposal in two days.”

How is the political situation in Iraq?-

“The insurgents have become weak since the general elections. It is expected that the situation will become further stabilized in early August when a draft, permanent Constitution is written. Shiites have become the dominant force ever since the elections. It is time to embrace Sunnis to seek stabilization. Compromise among factions is a necessity in stabilizing Iraq.”

Do you mean that the overall security situation in Iraq has been stabilized?-

“That is not the case. When the insurgents fire trench mortars from the other side of the Tigris River in Baghdad to Green Zone (safety zone), the mortars fly above our embassy building. I hear the sound of flying mortars several times a day. On my first day in the embassy, I heard a “bang” sound and saw the windows rattle. The staff next to me told me that it was the sound of a car bomb explosion.”

How is the relationship between Korea and the U.S.?-

“Very cooperative. I met with U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte as many as three times in two months. We treat each other with particular respect. When I told him that I would visit Korea to attend an overseas missions meeting, he said that he was also going to the U.S. to meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It turned out that he went to the U.S. for an appointment as Director of National Intelligence (DNI).”

How is the response from Iraqis about Korea?-

“Iraqi Interim President Al-Yawer told me that Iraq sees Korea as its development model on January 2. He seemed to consider Korea’s democratization process. Iraqi citizens are also quite familiar with Koreans as Korean construction companies were engaged in lots of projects in the country in the 1980s.”

Young-Sik Kim spear@donga.com lovesong@donga.com