Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South Korea

Newsline: Recalled Japan ambassador returns to South Korea

Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine returns to Seoul after being recalled almost three months ago in response to Korean civic groups erecting a statue of a girl symbolizing the sexual slavery victims in front of its consulate in the southern Korean port city of Busan. Yasumasa Nagamine was called back in January, in protest of a statue honoring the victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery set up by a civic group in Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan. Tokyo took the action because it felt the statue went against the spirit of the December 2015 bilateral agreement to provide support to Korean women forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during World War II. In returning the envoy, Japan has cited the need to engage with South Korea, which is in a transitional period ahead of the May 9 presidential election, and to coordinate with its neighbor in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat. Japan has repeatedly called on South Korea to “resolve” the issue of the statues following the 2015 agreement. With the recall of the envoy, Japan also postponed bilateral economic dialogue and talks on a new currency swap with South Korea.


Newsline: South Korean ministers snub meeting with Japanese ambassador

Two South Korean cabinet members have declined to meet with Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine, who recently returned to Seoul after a three-month recall, their ministries said Thursday. Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo and Defense Minister Han Min-koo turned down Nagamine’s request, citing such reasons as scheduling conflicts. The Japanese envoy has also asked to meet with acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. The government will make a thorough decision, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters Thursday. But the odds seem slim, with the spokesperson also criticizing Nagamine for speaking publicly about his request to meet with a foreign leader before both sides had agreed to it. After arriving in Seoul on Tuesday, Nagamine said he wanted to meet with Hwang as soon as possible and urge him to affirm a commitment to a 2015 bilateral deal aimed at resolving the issue of wartime “comfort women.” South Korean media reported this comment as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Japan has called for the removal of a statue symbolizing comfort women near its embassy in Seoul, as well as another in front of its consulate in Busan. The latter had led Tokyo to temporarily recall Nagamine back in January. This has incensed the South Korean public. Most candidates in the presidential election scheduled for May 9 want to scrap or renegotiate the comfort women deal. The government is likely taking heed of such sentiment.


Newsline: China summons South Korea’s ambassador following death of Chinese fisherman

A senior Chinese diplomat has held an “emergency meeting” with South Korea’s ambassador to China and lodged a protest after the captain of a Chinese fishing boat died during a violent clash with the South Korean Coast Guard during a crackdown on illegal fishing. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao met with the South Korean ambassador to China, Kwon Young-se, and made “solemn representations” over the incident, which happened 144 kilometers off South Korea’s western coast earlier Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement. Liu told Kwon that South Korea must “conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the case, punish those responsible and take measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Liu was quoted as saying in the statement. Kwon expressed “profound regrets” and “deep condolences” to the family of the captain, according to the statement. The 45-year-old Chinese skipper, only identified by his surname Song, was shot by a South Korean Coast Guard officer on the ship in waters near Wangdeung Island in Buan County, North Jeolla Province, and transferred to a hospital in the southwestern port city, where he later died, Coast Guard officials said. The scuffle erupted as South Korean Coast Guard officers confronted the Chinese boat over illegal fishing. According to the South Korean Coast Guard, the Chinese fishermen resisted violently with knives and beer bottles during the raid. A South Korean officer fired shots from a K-5 pistol as warnings, but the shots were not specifically aimed at the captain, according to the Coast Guard. In 2011, a South Korean Coast Guard officer was killed by Chinese fishermen during a raid against illegal fishing in South Korean waters.


Newsline: Senate approves new US ambassador to South Korea

The Senate has confirmed Pentagon chief of staff Mark Lippert as the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea. Lippert, 41, was a foreign policy adviser on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He also served as assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and chief of staff for the National Security Council. He served in the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was an intelligence officer. Lippert will replace Sung Kim, who was the first Korean-American to hold the post. Kim is tipped to replace Glyn Davies as chief envoy to North Korea and also serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korean affairs.


Newsline: South Korea Sends Diplomat to Palestine Separate from Israel

A diplomat representing the Korean government has been officially dispatched to Palestine. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 28, Park Woong-cheol, the newly appointed representative to the State of Palestine, began working around the clock at the office in Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital, from the 25th with one local employee. Although the Korean government opened a representative office in Palestine in 2005, there was no full-time diplomat and instead a counselor at the Korean Embassy in Israel crossed the border twice a week to perform the necessary work. The main reason the government assigned a full-time diplomat in Palestine separate from Israel has to do with the fact that it is aware of the increasing importance of the Arab World to Korea in terms of trade opportunities other than energy. The government recently offered to donate US$1 million to the Palestine government to help rebuild the Gaza Strip that was severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes.


Newsline: South Korea warns Bangladesh of strained ties after court summons ambassador

South Korea has termed the summoning of its ambassador by a Dhaka court “regrettable and unacceptable”. In a strongly-worded statement, it warned the government that such act, if recurs in future, would “seriously damage” bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Korea. Judge Fazley Elahee Bhuiyan of a Dhaka district court on July 24 asked Ambassador Lee Yun-young to appear before him in person at 9am on Sep 10 to answer some queries related to a case. The ambassador took the issue to the foreign ministry.The envoy was made an accused in a case filed in September 2011 by Abdul Kader Faruk, Managing director of RN Spinning Mills Ltd, in East Rampura. Two top officials of Dayeung Industries Inc in South Korea were the main accused in the case. Faruk demanded $0.138 million from the Korean company. The court issued summons to the envoy on July 24 this year following a petition by the plaintiff. The embassy said the summons had been issued without presenting “any justifiable and reasonable grounds” and without “verifying its relevance”. It was also an “obvious violation” of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the statement added. It said his summons was “completely irrelevant” and was flawed in all aspects. The embassy conveyed its “firm and clear position” to the Bangladesh’s foreign ministry and requested necessary measures to address the issue for the sake of “future relationship” between Dhaka and Seoul.


Newsline: South Korean Embassy in Manila alarmed by rising number of Korean fatal victims of crime in Philippines

The Korean Embassy in Manila has expressed alarm over the rising number of deaths of its nationals who had become victims of crimes here and said that if this trend continued, Korean would be discouraged from coming to the Philippines. In a statement, the Korean embassy said that so far, nine Koreans have died in violent crimes since January. The latest case involved a Korean businessman who was killed last July 27 in a car-jacking, the embassy said. The man’s wife was also abducted but was later released unharmed and police have arrested the family driver “for possible involvement in the crime,” it said. The embassy also mentioned the abduction and murder last March of 21-year-old student named Lee Ji Won, noting that one of the suspects in his murder included a taxi driver. It also said the “brutal and senseless crime (against Lee) rattled the Korean community in the Philippines.” “The rising incidence of crimes committed against Koreans while in the Philippines either on vacation or on business is a trend that has alarmed the Embassy of the Republic of Korea,” the embassy said.