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Ambassador Won’t Snub Hyundai Ceremony

Posted April. 18, 2006 03:01,   


Because of increasing public pressure, Korea’s ambassador to China, Kim Ha-jung, who had turned down the invitation of the Hyundai Motor Company’s groundbreaking ceremony of the second complex in China to be held today, has been known to change his mind and decided that he will attend the ceremony.

According to Hyundai Motor Company and the embassy of the Republic of Korea in China, Kim rejected the invitation of Hyundai Motor Company last week by saying, “I can’t make it this time because I have previous engagement.”

The embassy also informed the Hyundai that Shin Bong-gil, Korean economic minister to China, who used to attend ceremonies like this on behalf of Ambassador Kim, can’t make it this time because of business trips.

Such repeated rejections from the Korean embassy bewildered the Hyundai Motor Company because about 20 to 30 influential figures in Beijing, including Ryuchi, a member of the central political bureau of the Chinese Communist Party and party secretary, and Wang Chi San, mayor of Beijing, are scheduled to attend the ceremony. It is also an unprecedented case that the Korean ambassador didn’t show up to the groundbreaking ceremony of such big motor factory which annually produces a whopping 300,000 cars.

In fact, when the Hyundai Motor Company held the motor complex groundbreaking ceremony in Alabama, the United States last year and in Slovakia 2004, Korean ambassadors of two regions attended the event.

In regard to Kim’s reversal, diplomatic experts in Beijing view that it is a result of ambassador’s keen sensitiveness about matters related to the company, which are under the inspection of the Korean government.

Their evaluation gains popularity because it makes no sense not to send even a minister to such big event, to which the ambassador used to attend.

The establishment of the second complex in China affects the very existence of Hyundai Motor Company now. Since the first complex, which annually produces about 300,000 cars, only targets the demand of China this year, the first complex is not big enough to gain benefits from the boom involved in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Aware of increasing criticism, Ambassador Kim informed the Hyundai of his attendance in the ceremony yesterday, a day before the event.

“Hyundai asked us just last week. Since we already had previous engagement with important figures in China which was set three weeks ago, we couldn’t accept its invitation,” said a spokesperson of the embassy. He also pointed out the poor event arrangement of the Hyundai Motor Company by saying, “Since the previous engagement is important event that can affect all of China, it took about two hours for us to change the schedule just a day before the event.”

Hyundai Motor Company, however, said, “Because of the prosecution investigation, it took longer than expected to decide whether or not to hold the groundbreaking ceremony,” adding, “But we already notified the embassy of the schedule at the end of the last month.”

Jong-Dae Ha orionha@donga.com