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Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic gaffes continue

An incorrect geographic term used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs triggered a complaint from the Latvian Embassy in Seoul last month, in what appears to be the latest in a string of diplomatic blunders.

In an English version of its press release published on March 19, the ministry incorrectly referred to the three Baltic States --the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania and the Republic of Estonia – as “the Balkan states.”


Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)




The ministry did not realize the error until the Latvian Embassy in Seoul requested a correction on March 21.

The ministry’s international media team said Wednesday the mistake occurred in the process of translation and it would “make every effort to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The Latvian Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The mistake was belatedly revealed following a controversy over President Moon Jae-in’s use of improper greetings during his visit to Malaysia on March 13.

During a joint press conference with Malysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Moon greeted his audience with the phrase “Selamat Sore,” an expression more commonly used in Indonesia. The protocol team of Cheong Wa Dae came under fire for failing to prepare Moon properly.

In response to reports and criticisms on the issue, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said she was “deeply ashamed and feels responsible” in a meeting of high-ranking officials on March 22.

Kang urged Foreign Ministry officials to set up a system to prevent recurrence and warned of disciplinary measures against those who lack professionalism.

“As the Foreign Ministry is an institution that represents the country, it should have a mindset of taking responsibility of every diplomatic matter from the beginning till the end,” Kang said in the meeting.

The minister was aware of the gaffe involving the Latvian Embassy at the time of the meeting and her remark was made to address that issue as well, according to a ministry official.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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