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Foreign Ministry audit riddled with strife over president’s overseas trip

Audit halted three times, dragged on to midnight

Lawmakers argue during a parliamentary inspection session at the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Lawmakers argue during a parliamentary inspection session at the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The parliamentary inspection of the Foreign Ministry dragged on to Tuesday midnight as lawmakers across the aisle wrangled over whether President Yoon Suk-yeol’s overseas trip last month was a “diplomatic disaster” or not.

From the start of the session on Tuesday, the lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea refused to proceed, demanding Foreign Minister Park Jin to leave the session, citing last week's passage of a no-confidence motion. Less than 40 minutes after it kicked off, the session came to a halt.

The Democratic Party that holds 169 of 299 seats in the National Assembly had unilaterally passed the motion calling for the president to dismiss Park from the ministerial post on Friday. They claimed Park should be held accountable for the gaffes the president made during his overseas trip.

Yoon went on a seven-day trip to Britain, the United States and Canada last month to attend a number of international events, including Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral and the UN General Assembly.

While the administration has called the trip "meaningful," maintaining that the president was able to forge ties with leaders of major countries, critics and the main opposition party denounced the trip as a "diplomatic fiasco."

The session resumed at 2 p.m. only to be put to a halt again two more times before ending at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday, as the dispute over Yoon's trip wore on.

The opposition party took issue with a series of incidents that occurred during Yoon's trip.

In Britain, Yoon attended the queen's funeral, but canceled the visit to Westminster Hall where the queen's coffin was enshrined, citing traffic congestion.

Rep. Woo Sang-ho of the main opposition Democratic Party accused Yoon of intentionally canceling the visit to have his dinner.

The presidential office also come under fire for failing to hold formal summits that it promised with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minster Fumio Kishida on the US trip.

Yoon did hold bilateral talks with Kishida, but the opposition criticized how it was reduced to a pull-aside format from the proper summit the government had announced. Democratic Party lawmakers claimed Yoon failed to bring about a "tangible" outcome from his meeting with Kishida.

In New York, Yoon allegedly used derogatory words to refer to what appeared to be the US Congress, in remarks caught on a hot mic.

While rejecting the accusations, the ruling People Power Party lawmakers also raised accusations against former President Moon Jae-in, who is affiliated to the Democratic Party.

Rep. Chung Jin-suk, the interim leader of the People Power Party, claimed that the previous government had allowed Kim Jung-sook, Moon's wife and then first lady, to go on a state trip to India "for her to achieve the goal to go on an around-the-world trip on her bucket list."

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)

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