Unless a foreign envoy here has local staff dedicated to translating news articles into his or her native language, the South Korea-based English-language media is indispensable for diplomats.
Even for foreign missions with a sizable local staff, foreign ambassadors turn to the English language press as a source of knowledge on Korean culture, politics and economy.
This the case for Australian Ambassador to South Korea William Paterson.
|Australian Ambassador to South Korea William Paterson peruses the latest news inside The Korea Herald at the Australian chancery in downtown Seoul on Aug. 5.|
“As an English speaker, The Korea Herald provides me with key information I need at the start of my day in these vital areas,” said Paterson at his office in downtown Seoul on Monday.
“As an ambassador living in South Korea, I read widely across a range of English and Korean language papers with a particular focus on politics, economics and society.”
Paterson is new in South Korea, arriving in Seoul in May. He formally presented his Letter of Credence to President Park Geun-hye at Cheong Wa Dae on Aug. 8.
Paterson said that as his country’s top representative here in South Korea he relies not only on the media to gain a complete picture of Korean society. He has to engage personally with key decision makers, commentators and even with the average citizen.
“We have to get out there and be active, identifying who matters and where we share interests, so that we can progress issues and develop useful links,” he said.
Foreign policy parishioners could describe this as public diplomacy, a fancy term that simply means engaging directly with the public, rather than indirectly though the government.
That said, the Australian ambassador said that “The Korea Herald is a starting point for us.”
Paterson has spent a great deal of his career in Asia at postings from Bangladesh to Thailand and Japan. He has considerable experience in counter-terrorism and security issues. He said English language media is a good start in staying abreast on the issues.
“While some other papers provide the English translation of selected articles on their websites, the Korea Herald takes its English speaking readership seriously. I have been encouraged to see a growing focus on more in-depth analyses in The Herald which helps the diplomatic community ‘read between the lines’ of the major stories,” he said. “I also enjoy the syndication of articles from the major global mastheads on key topics such as inter-Korean relations and regional security.”
In this way, diplomats are not unlike journalists, Paterson said. Korea requires a lot of effort but every foreign posting does for a diplomat. “We are like journalists collecting and assessing information and making it available to our government.”
Diplomats are similar to journalists in another way, he said. Diplomats must build trusted relationships and, although this normally takes time, diplomats spend on average three years at any particular posting so they must move quickly.
“This points again to the value of good sources for news and commentary which is a key function of The Korea Herald,” he said.
By Philip Iglauer (email@example.com)