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Korea Popular Among Japanese Diplomats

Posted November. 25, 2005 08:29,   


Recently, Korea has emerged as a popular nation to work in among Japanese diplomats.

It is because Korea is geographically close to Japan and the living environment is good, while their jobs are significant. The Korean Wave also somewhat boosted this popularity. The major reason is that working in Korea is a good way to gain precious experience as a diplomat and to qualify for important posts afterwards.

As Japan’s strategic interests on the Korean Peninsula increase, because of issues such as North Korea’s nuclear program, young Japanese diplomats are finding Korea an attractive workplace.

Ms. Nasco, who has worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan since 2000, said, “We can choose up to five major languages. And more than ten out of sixty of my colleagues chose Korean as their number one major language.”

It is difficult for them to work in China because there are many diplomats who have a lot of experience and expertise in China. In contrast, posts in Korea are relatively open to those who have experience in the U.S. and European countries. Thus, there are many diplomats who want to work in Korea.

However, the Northeast Asia Division of the ministry, which is in charge of diplomacy with Korea, is well known as the busiest and hard-working division.

Those who worked in Korea say, “The embassy in Korea is one of the busiest Japanese embassies in the word.” Diplomats in Korea should give up time with family and relatively loose schedules which are often cited as the advantages of working in a foreign country.

One source said, “Some are even saying that the embassy in Korea is busier than the embassy in China, with which we have frequent conflicts.”

However, the embassy in Seoul receives a lot of publicity, and if one completes his or her tasks in Seoul without major wrongdoing, he or she will be well positioned for promotions and other benefits afterwards.

Shimoji Domio, a secretary at the Japanese embassy in Korea, said, “There are countless cases where diplomats took important posts after they worked in Korea.”

Kawashima Yutaka, who served as a minister in Korea about 10 years ago, became a permanent vice-minister after he returned to Japan. Yanaionji, who served as the ambassador to the US and now works as a judge of international marine law, also worked in Korea in the past. There are many other cases where former diplomatic ministers in Korea became directors of major bureaus when they went back to Japan.

Seoul is regarded as one of the four major embassies along with Washington, Beijing, and Moscow. Mr. Shimoji said, “In terms of the number of those who are third secretaries or above, Korea (50) is after the US (over 100), China (over 70), UN (over 60) and Indonesia (over 50). However, if we take the size or population of the nation into consideration, the highest numbers of Japanese diplomats are in Korea.”

Won-Jae Park Young-A Soh parkwj@donga.com sya@donga.com