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Attack on Japanese Ambassador

Posted July. 09, 2010 11:23,   


The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was adopted in 1961 to grant privileges to diplomats. One major privilege is immunity, or absolute protection from arrest or detention in a host country. The convention also stipulates that when a diplomat’s person, freedom or dignity is violated, the culprit must receive harsh punishment. The international community took these steps to protect diplomats because of the substantial and symbolic significance they hold in international relations.

Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Toshinori Shigeie, who will finish his term at the end of the month, was attacked Wednesday at a forum in Seoul. His attacker Kim Ki-jong, who identified himself as the head of a civic organization to protect Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, made violent comments against Shigeie and threw a fist-size stone at him. The rock missed the ambassador and hit a Japanese interpreter instead. Kim said, “I sent three letters on the Dokdo issue to the Japanese Embassy but have not received an answer.” A longtime advocate in the non-governmental cultural circle, he began the campaign “Dokdo Guardian” in the mid-2000s.

Korea has never tolerated Japan’s false claim to Dokdo or distortion of history. Nevertheless, physically attacking foreign diplomats is an act that ignores international law and undermines Korea’s image abroad and cannot be tolerated under any circumstance. Kim should have considered what Koreans and the world would think of another country if one of its nationals attacked a Korean diplomat.

After the attack, Kim shouted to the crowd, “If you are Koreans, kill this bastard.” Upon his arrest, he said, “I wanted to kill him and go down in history like (pro-independence fighter) An Jung-geun.” Such an extreme attempt, however, cannot be seen as a patriotic act. Despite historical disputes with Japan that remain unresolved, the two countries have established official ties and grown closer as neighbors diplomatically and economically. Mentioning An by incorrectly comparing the situation of today with that of the final years of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty debases the martyr’s dignity.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)