We deserve better FM
Yes, I am suggesting our present foreign minister be replaced with somebody who takes charge and vitalizes our foreign policy.
Of course, it would be only natural to give Kim Sung-hwan a chance to better get on with his job but that appears to be a tall order for the minister one influential person describes as being “very capable of maintaining the status quo but nothing else.”
What exactly has the foreign minister done wrong?
I would like to start with the front page piece in our Thursday edition titled, “Meltdown of Korean diplomacy.”
At the newsroom, some reporters and editors argued that the title was too forceful and the editorial note was too strong. They rightly think meltdown indicates something no longer exists in its original form.
To them, the headline would suggest that our nation’s diplomacy has been bent out of shape and doesn’t function properly. I would not disagree except for one thing _ I used meltdown as a process still in progress, not the end result. By my definition, the headline should mean our diplomacy needs some serious fixing to get it back on track because, if left as it is, it will end up broken beyond repair.
As my logic goes, to save our diplomacy from its current crisis, it requires a drastic response ― diplomatic cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR.
What I am suggesting is that emergency procedure for the foreign policy crisis at least requires changing our foreign minister.
Kim could argue over what serious fault he can be found guilty of.
Here is a list of his sins.
First, he and his ministry have failed in their primary role of protecting the lives of Korean people overseas and promoting national interest.
Activist Kim Young-hwan and three of his colleagues have been detained in China for close to two months. They have been denied access to legal counsel or visitations by their families and there is no knowing what state they are in.
What has the ministry done?
A human rights group claims that Kim Young-hwan’s words were taken out of context when he met with a Korean consular official. In response to the question of whether he was subjected to harsh treatment he said, “How can I say such a thing in the presence of Chinese police?”
The group says that the ministry obviously made a mistake and opted to believe that the four didn’t want any government intervention.
On a larger scale, the Kim Young-hwan case captures Korea’s quiet approach, the backbone of our diplomacy, in its complete breakdown. The approach is intended to resolve matters with other nations in general without a big fuss and with China in particular, considering its close relationship with North Korea.
By some appearances, this approach has colored and shaped various diplomatic efforts to rebut Japan’s unfounded claim over our easternmost islets of Dokdo and change the name of the body of water between the two countries from the East Sea to the Sea of Japan. They have not been a total failure but warrant a serious top-down and bottom-up review because they make Korea look weak and hesitant in speaking out.
That leads to our Friday edition, whose front page main article calls China “parochial” in its headline, describing it as the opposite of Oskar Matzerath, the main character of Gunter Grass’s “The Tin Drum.” Oskar is an adult trapped in a child’s body but China behaves like a giant baby that insists on getting its way without consideration for others.
On the front page of our weekend edition, we called Japan “shameless” for their expressing regret over our government’s support for the memorial for “comfort women,” who were forced to serve as sex slaves for imperial Japanese soldiers during World War II.
China has just replaced Japan as No. 2 in the global economic pecking order and needs some time to learn and observe responsibilities expected of its newly-found leadership status.
Japan has been stuck in the economic doldrums for decades with no immediate prospect of recovery, making it tempted to do something out of the ordinary to compensate for the sense of loss at a national level.
North Korea has been a constant variable in the Korean equation, never failing to surprise the outside world and in the rare case it fails, insists that the rest of the world take it as if it were a surprise.
The United States and Europe are falling and Asia is rising, making it hard to predict how the global order will change. This requires a paradigm shift in our foreign policy. In other words, looking to Japan for a policy hint or asking the United States for advice is no longer acceptable.
Minister Kim’s resignation would not solve the foreign policy crisis we face overnight but at least it seems to be a good start. If he won’t step down voluntarily because of his obligations to the President, who appointed him to the post, Cheong Wa Dae shouldn’t hesitate to give him a signal.
In the last year in office, presidents tend to be defensive and stay the course but there are things that can’t be put on hold. One such thing is saving our diplomacy from a meltdown.