The Seoul government is anxious that the escalating scandal involving Korean diplomats and a Chinese woman in Shanghai might damage diplomatic relations with Beijing.
Officials here say the government information reportedly kept by the woman, Deng Xinming, ― visa records and phone numbers of politicians from 2007 ― were hardly state secrets.
“Unlike embassies, consulate generals rarely hold diplomatically important state secrets,” a senior presidential aide said.
But claims that Deng helped the Consulate General in Shanghai send North Korean refugees to South Korea could harm similar efforts in the future and make for awkward relations between Seoul and Beijing.
Former Consul General Kim Jung-ki and another ex-diplomat told the media that Deng played a key role in getting the Chinese authorities’ cooperation to bring North Koreans and a South Korean prisoner of war who fled the North for the South in November 2008.
Because of Beijing’s policy to repatriate North Korean refugees, such jobs have so far been quietly handled by South Korean diplomatic missions with unofficial cooperation from the Chinese authorities.
Diplomatic sources said it was inappropriate of Kim to publicly mention the sensitive issue as it could put Beijing in a difficult position.
Kim’s claims that Deng helped senior South Korean officials meet with the Shanghai secretary of the Chinese Communist Party could also have a negative effect on bilateral relations.
China’s Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the People’s Daily, warned that it would be an insult to Beijing if Seoul accused Deng of being a Chinese spy, citing local scholars.
Deng made hundreds of millions of won by fixing business complications for South Korean companies using her close ties with high-ranking Chinese officials. She is also said to have spread false rumors about herself to be perceived as a powerful figure.
The Seoul government is set to send a team of investigators to Shanghai on Sunday to probe into the widening scandal involving Deng and at least four South Korean diplomats.
The joint investigation team consisting of officials from the ministries of justice, foreign affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office plans to find out how government files were leaked to Deng and verify the various allegations or rumors about her.
The entire staff of the consulate in Shanghai will come under scrutiny as it has a record of irregularities in visa affairs.
Four officials, including former Consul General Kim, have been questioned by the Prime Minister’s Office so far over leaks of confidential information such as President Lee Myung-bak’s itinerary during his visit to Shanghai last May and cell phone numbers of Korean politicians.
The others are a 41-year-old former Ministry of Justice official surnamed Hur, a 42-year-old official identified only as Kim of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, and a 48-year-old diplomat, Park, who is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
They all met Deng while working at the consulate in Shanghai.
Deng had kept photos of her with all four of them plus three more men ― a 43-year-old retired official of the National Police Agency, a former senior official who now serves in a business organization and an unidentified man.
Deng’s husband handed over the photos and confidential consular data she kept to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Hur, who violated rules to issue dual visas to Deng, resigned and fled to China last month in the middle of an inquiry by the Justice Ministry.
In an e-mail Hur sent to Deng’s husband in late January, Hur said Deng was also questioned by Chinese authorities and that she could be arrested.
“Deng Xinming seemed to be having a hard time going through interrogations,” Hur wrote in the e-mail dated Jan. 24.
“She said she could be arrested.”
He also wrote that he gave up everything including his career and family for his love for Deng.
Hur is known as an elite bureaucrat who worked at the presidential office and as assistant to a justice minister under the former Roh Moo-hyun administration before joining the Shanghai mission.
The whereabouts of Deng and Hur are yet to be found.
Latest findings suggest that Deng extracted the phone numbers of some 200 senior officials and politicians directly from Kim, who was questioned by the Prime Minister’s Office for the third day Thursday.
Kim’s contact list was photographed about two hours after Deng and Kim were photographed together in June last year in the lobby of a Shanghai hotel, according to Yonhap news agency.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com)
Second sex scandal rocks "Ministry of Love Affairs"
A diplomatic sex scandal has erupted out of the Korean Embassy in Mongolia, coming just days after a similar scandal involving a Chinese woman shook the nation, according to news reports in Seoul.
A high ranking diplomat at the Korean Embassy in Ulan Bator was reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with a local woman, the government official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
When the official returned to Seoul from his duty in Mongolia, she, who was pregnant at the time, demanded a large sum of money, threatening to reveal their secret relationship otherwise, the report said. A criminal ring was reported to have been involved in the subsequent spat.
The official resigned in February, 2010, when the government started to investigate the case.
A source said Thursday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been nicknamed the “Ministry of Love Affairs” because of a number of previous scandals there.
As diplomats stay overseas for lengthy periods, they can become more exposed to the possibility of having an affair, according to sources.
The news comes as a sex-for-favors scandal, in which three S. Korean consuls in Shanghai are alleged to have given confidential government information to their 33-year-old mistress, is rocking South Korea. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (The Korea Herald)
한국 외교가를 뒤흔들고 있는 ‘상하이 스캔들’ 외에 몽골에서도 비슷한 사건이 있었던 것으로 뒤늦게 알려졌다.
9일 정부 소식통에 따르면 지난 2009년 몽골 울란바토르 주재 한국 대사관에서 근무한 고위 외교관 P모씨는 현지 여성과 부적절한 관계를 맺은 것으로 알려졌다.
문제는 이 외교관이 현지 근무를 끝내고 귀국하게 되면서 불거졌다. P씨의 내연녀는 임신을 했다며 거액을 요구했고 ‘돈을 주지 않으면 관계를 폭로하겠다’고 협박했다. 이 과정에서 현지 조직 폭력배까지 개입된 것으로 알려졌다.
이후 P씨는 관계 당국이 자신의 부적절한 관계에 대한 조사에 돌입하자 지난해 2월 사직했다.
Korean diplomat in Japan's Niigata resigns over corruption: official
A South Korean diplomatic mission chief in Japan has resigned over allegations that he misappropriated government money, an official said Friday, adding to concern about decaying discipline of diplomats amid a sex scandal rocking the mission in Shanghai.
The chief of South Korea's consulate general in Niigata, identified only by his surname initial Y, quit last month after an investigation into suspicions that he used official funds for private purposes, the foreign ministry official said.
The revelations came amid mounting criticism of lax discipline of diplomats after several officials at the country's consulate general in Shanghai were found to have had affairs with one Chinese woman and leaked confidential information to her.
The Niigata consul general had served as deputy chief of the Shanghai mission before taking his last post in 2009. (Yonhap News)
니가타 주재 총영사 공금유용으로 사임
'상하이 스캔들'로 재외공관의 기강해이를 질타 하는 목소리가 커지는 가운데 일본 니가타 주재 총영사가 공금을 유용한 혐의로 지 난 2월 사임한 것으로 11일 알려졌다.
외교부에 따르면 2009년 9월 니가타 총영사로 부임한 Y(54)씨는 최근 공금을 사 적으로 쓴 혐의로 본부에 소환돼 감사관실의 조사를 받은 뒤 사표를 제출했다.
Y씨는 니가타에서 근무하기 직전에는 주상하이 대사관에서 부총영사로 근무했었 다.
'상하이 스캔들'에 이어 외교부 출신인 Y씨의 공금유용까지 드러남으로써 재외 공관에 대한 강도 높은 기강점검이 필요하다는 지적이 나오고 있다. (연합뉴스)