US President Donald Trump’s statement that Seoul would not lift sanctions on Pyongyang without America’s “approval” did not go down well in South Korea, prompting criticism from activists and politicians from across the political spectrum.
A group of student activists climbed up the Statue of King Sejong in central Seoul on Friday afternoon in a protest against Trump’s speech as they flew a banner that read, “South Korea is not a US colony” and chanted, “Trump needs to apologize.”
Police remove a protester from the statue of King Sejong in downtown Seoul on Friday. (Twitter user Greg DeRego)
The protest, which saw six people arrested, comes after Trump said Wednesday, “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” a comment that has been widely branded as “condescending” and “an infringement of sovereignty.”
Trump’s comment came after South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha hinted that sanctions put in place on Pyongyang after the North’s torpedo attack on the country’s Cheonan warship could be lifted, a remark that she has retraced.
Politicians from both sides of the political aisle also criticized Trump’s choice of the term “approval.”
US President Donald Trump takes questions from reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday. (Reuters-Yonhap)
In a now-deleted Facebook post, lawmaker Song Young-gil from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said he disagreed with Trump’s choice of the word “approval,” and explained that unlike sanctions imposed by the United Nations, South Korea’s independent sanctions like the ones in response to the 2010 Cheonan sinking do not require approval from other entities.
Song added while prior consultation with a strong ally like the US is necessary, to suggest that South Korea needs “approval” from the US shows disrespect to South Korea as a sovereign state.
Ex-lawmaker and prominent conservative figure Jeon Yeo-ok also took to Facebook to echo a similar sentiment.
“It is indeed an infringement of sovereignty for Trump to use the word ‘approval’ no fewer than three times!” Jeon said in the post. She also said she felt “sad” and “angry” about the whole situation surrounding Foreign Minister Kang’s remark.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during a parliamentary inspection meeting on Wednesday morning in Seoul. (Yonhap)
In the wake of mounting criticism, South Korea‘s ambassador to the United States Cho Yoon-je said Friday that he told a White House official about the controversy surrounding Trump’s comment.
During Friday’s parliamentary inspection meeting at South Korea’s embassy in Washington, Cho said he understands President Trump was suddenly asked about the possibility of South Korea lifting sanctions against North Korea and gave his opinion that there won’t be any lifting of sanctions without approval from the US as it serves as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
By Yim Hyun-su (email@example.com