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[Opinion] Masters of Diplomacy

Posted April. 05, 2007 08:02,   


Professional diplomats who have worked for the Department of Economy at the Korean Embassy in Washington and Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea in Geneva are often referred to as “dual swords,” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They say that you can join the ranks of top trade experts only after you learn bilateral negotiations with the U.S. in Washington and experience multi-lateral talks in Geneva where international organizations are clustered.

However, why are they called “dual swords,” instead of “dual guns”? First, it is because “dual guns” has a negative connotation of the F grade in Korea. Besides, the person who sits on the negotiation table to protect national interest must be as sharp and agile as a swordsman.

Korea’s negotiation team, which successfully concluded a free trade agreement with the U.S., was full of “dual swords,” including Cho Tae-yeol, the director of the Bilateral Trade Bureau of the MOFAT, Ahn Myung-soo, chairman of the government procurement subcommittee, Choi Gyung-rim, the chairman of the investment subcommittee and Min Dong-seok, the deputy minister of agriculture trade policy. In particular, Cho is a veteran negotiator who has already worked in Washington and Geneva twice and who has been leading Korea’s negotiation team since the trade conflict between the U.S. and Korea escalated in the 1980s over the “Super 301” trade provision of the United States.

The Korean mission to Geneva is one of the best places to learn multilateral negotiations. Since the city is home to the headquarters of various international organizations, including the World Trade Organization, the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization, it provides abundant opportunities to experience high-level “conference diplomacy.” In Geneva, you have to be capable of chairing large-scale international conferences without trouble to be recognized as a competent diplomat. Beside language skills, an international mindset, leadership and sociability are also essential.

The members of Korea’s Geneva team are expected to lead the upcoming FTA talks with the European Union and China. It is because skilled negotiation professionals cannot be produced overnight. Of course, EU and China are no pushovers, either. China has been dedicated to nurturing professional diplomats since it joined the WTO in 2001. Korea must carefully maintain its Geneva team and nurture new members of the team if it wants to win the diplomatic war with China.

Kim Chang-hyuk, Editorial Writer, chang@donga.com