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[Diplomatic News] Korean Embassy in China Ranks First in Memos Sent Among Korean Embassies Worldwide

[Diplomatic News] Korean Embassy in China Ranks First in Memos Sent Among Korean Embassies Worldwide

Posted August. 05, 2005 04:58,   


How did Korean embassies around the world fare on their “first-semester report cards”? Some may object to the ambiguity of the evaluation standards, but the total number of memos they sent back to the home country may serve as a criterion in this case.

According to the statistics for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s diplomatic memos obtained exclusively by Dong-A Ilbo, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in China led the race with 3,508 individual memos. This is an impressive number, amounting to an average of 20 per day. The runners-up are the embassies in the U.S. and Japan, followed by the Permanent Representative of Korea in Geneva and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, both frequent hosts to international conferences.

The principal contents of such memos involve current issues between the embassy’s country of residence and Korea, while reports that may serve as references in home administration also take up a considerable portion of the total. In terms of format, the memos are categorized into plain text (written in ordinary language) and cipher text (written in code) documents.

The results of the statistical survey attest to the massive workload undertaken by the embassy in China. Since the total is for the first half only, the Chinese branch has taken the cake even without the inclusion of memos related to the six-party talks, which have been continuing for 11 days thus far. The fact that the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in China has surpassed its counterpart in the U.S. demonstrates China’s dramatic growth as a Korean diplomatic priority over the past several years.

At each embassy there are “resident officers” from various government ministries besides those subordinated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The number of memos sent out by these officers shows substantial variation from ministry to ministry.

Let’s take the Korean embassy in Japan as an example. In terms of variation by field, the 932 affairs of state memos account for the majority of the total owing to the busy traffic between the two states regarding the issue of past history. Next up are consulate, economy, public relations, and general affairs memos.

Among the resident officers dispatched by the respective administrative departments, the department of agriculture and forestry came in first place with 95 memos. Although agricultural produce takes up only a small portion of national exports, its “felt” proportion is far larger, leading to a wide variety of related tasks.

Next on the list are memos on construction, unification, information, science, maritime, education, customs, and culture. They average between 74 to 58 per department, but since the size of the staff ranges from one to three for each department, the number of memos per staff member vastly differs.

The reactions of relevant officials to these “first-semester report cards” are also interesting.

Staff members in fields or departments with fewer memos issued laughed off the results with comments about “quality over quantity.” They argued that it’s unfair to judge their performance solely on the basis of numbers when they’ve also devoted all their time and effort for the good of their country.

By contrast, an official who recorded a particularly high number of memos said, half in earnest and half in jest, “Work is work, but we need to be able to better entertain dignitaries…”

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com