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[Editorial] False quotes

Democratic Party spokesperson apologizes for misquoting European Union ambassador

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea apologized for distorting a foreign envoy’s remarks.

Its chairman Lee Jae-myung and European Union Ambassador to South Korea Maria Castillo Fernandez held a closed-door meeting in his office in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

In a back briefing after the meeting, party spokesperson, Kim Eui-kyeom, said Fernandez said that there seems to be a limit to the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's response to North Korea's escalating provocation because it has no channel for dialogue. He also quoted her as saying that even when tension mounted in the days of Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, solutions could be found through (inter-Korean) exchanges, because there were dialogue channels, but not so now.

Kim’s quotation showed that a foreign diplomat in Korea criticized the government of the country of sojourn in front of an opposition party leader. Considering diplomatic custom, it is hard to imagine her making such remark. The EU envoy is said to have protested to the party over the false remark.

If Fernandez had not protested and the party had not apologized, the Korean people might have thought that the Yoon government’s North Korea policy is seen problematic in the eyes of the EU.

She sent a text message to Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Gunn of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the message disclosed by the ministry to reporters, Fernandez said, "Sorry that my words have been mis-used and twisted by opposition for media. That was not the meaning nor the intention, as you know well."

A day after the meeting, Kim said in a statement that he misquoted the EU ambassador and that there was no conversation comparing responses of past and present administrations. Kim also said he offered a deep apology to the EU ambassador for causing confusion. But the statement was buried in a list of notices on the party’s website.

It is a spokesperson’s duty to convey what other people said as it is. Kim delivered what was not said. He said what he wanted to, as if the envoy said it. This is fabrication and a lie.

This is not the first time that he sparked controversies with his groundless arguments and absurd suspicions.

The Justice Ministry held a business agreement ceremony on Aug. 18. Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon shook hands with Lee Jae-jung, a Democratic Party member of the National Assembly, after taking a commemorative photograph.

However, Kim argued to the effect that Han, apparently conscious of the camera, followed Lee to an elevator persistently, held out his hand for a handshake and that she had no option but to shake hands with Han in front of the elevator. This was not true. Video footage of the ceremony showed that they shook hands in front of a business agreement banner in a conference room where the event took place. Han did not go after Lee, either. Lee extended her hand first.

During a parliamentary inspection of the Justice Ministry on Oct. 24, Kim raised suspicions that Han and President Yoon Suk-yeol had an inappropriate meeting with members of an influential law firm. Kim argued that Yoon, Han and some 30 lawyers of Kim & Chang were drinking in a luxurious bar in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul, for three hours from 1 a.m. of July 20.

It is preposterous that the incumbent president, justice minister and 30 lawyers got together for a drinking party in a bar. The law firm reportedly says the argument is ludicrous. It is well known that Han rarely drinks alcohol and that he shuns drinking. Han strongly denied attending the party. The presidential office said the president was not at the bar at the time.

Kim was a newspaper reporter before working as Moon’s spokesperson. He likely knows well that fact checking matters in his profession. But he ignored it. He is more immersed in political attacks than the truth. He is not qualified any longer as a spokesperson.



By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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