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Minister stresses ethics for envoys

Officials working at overseas missions should feel a heavier sense of ethical responsibility as representatives of the country, South Korea’s foreign minister said Monday amid a lingering sex scandal involving several diplomats in Shanghai.

The comments were made in Seoul on the first day of an annual conference of some 45 chiefs of consulates general and other consular offices. During the conference they will discuss how to better serve overseas citizens and promote their country abroad.

The three-day meeting comes as Seoul’s Foreign Ministry is struggling to deal with a scandal involving four officials, including former Consul General Kim Jung-ki, accused of leaking confidential state information to a married Chinese woman while working in Shanghai.

At least 10 more Korean officials are speculated to have inappropriate relationships with the woman, Deng Xinming, who has disappeared from the public eye since the scandal was made public earlier this month.

South Korean investigators, who flew to Beijing to probe the officials, are to reveal their investigation results as early as Wednesday, officials said.

“The Foreign Ministry appears to have let the people down again with the incident at the Shanghai mission,” Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said during the conference. “I ask you to make more effort in serving the people, feeling heavier responsibilities.”

Kim also called for more effort in protecting overseas Koreans, citing the recent Middle East unrest and natural disasters around the world. 
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (center) and other officials salute during a meeting of heads of Korea’s consular offices abroad at the ministry Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (center) and other officials salute during a meeting of heads of Korea’s consular offices abroad at the ministry Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

During a brief interview with the media, Ahn Chong-gi, the current consul general in Shanghai, vowed to “start anew” by rooting out “any anomalous diplomacy relying on unofficial and inappropriate sources” such as the accused Chinese woman.

Monday’s meeting started with a government briefing on pending issues concerning North Korea’s ongoing nuclear ambitions and relations with Seoul.

During the conference, participants will also be discussing how to expand South Korea’s business interests overseas, ways of promoting the country’s culture and enhancing safety measures for overseas Koreans, the Foreign Ministry said.

Meanwhile, about 10 officials based in Japan missed the meeting to focus on helping Koreans and supporting Japan’s efforts to overcome the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the country 11 days ago, it added.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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