An opposition lawmaker failed to attend a parliamentary audit of Korean diplomats in the U.S. after he failed to get a U.S. visa for undisclosed reasons, his aides said Tuesday.
Rep. Jeong Cheong-rae of the main opposition Democratic Party was set to visit New York last Thursday with five colleagues on the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee as a part of the ongoing parliamentary audits.
But his application was still pending, his aide said.
“Mr. Jeong had applied for his visa on Oct. 1, along with his fellow lawmakers due to visit the U.S. He was going to leave on the 16th but as of the 10th, his visa application was still pending, so we were compelled to change his travel plans,” he told The Korea Herald.
“We can’t finish ticketing and all the other necessary paperwork involved in traveling abroad within that kind of limited time frame.”
Other members of the committee who had applied for U.S. visas had received their permits on or before Oct. 10.
U.S. officials refused to announce the reasons for the delay in the visa application process.
“We can neither validate nor deny or in any other way discuss the status of his visa application unless we talk to the individual in question directly,” said an official with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
Because of Jeong’s abrupt schedule change, there is now only one Democratic Party assemblyman (Rep. Park Byeong-seug) accompanying five ruling Saenuri Party members for the committee audits in the U.S.
Jeong is currently visiting Korean embassies in Europe instead for similar purposes.
Unconfirmed speculation as to why the senior lawmaker’s visa was delayed surfaced, including his involvement in an 1989 anti-American protest.
Jeong and his fellow protesters at the time had illegally occupied parts of the U.S. ambassador’s home calling for a more equal bilateral relationship between South Korea and the United States.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)