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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 6)

2018/10/06 09:05

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Shameless diplomats

Sexual abuse by embassy officials taints national image

Korean diplomatic missions abroad have come under fire once again for sexual harassment by embassy officials.

According to the latest media reports, two high-level officials at the Korean embassies in Pakistan and India are awaiting disciplinary action after an inspection by the foreign ministry.

An official at the Korean Embassy in Pakistan reportedly made unwanted sexual advances to an embassy staff member and asked her to have drinks at his home after his wife had returned to Korea in July. An official working at the Korean Embassy in India reportedly made some inappropriate remarks to an administrative staffer, inviting her to his hotel room and asking her to join him for drinks. The two officials have been dismissed from their positions and are awaiting a decision by the ministry's disciplinary committee.

The sexual abuse cases by embassy officials not only hurt the victims, but also taint Korea's image in their host countries. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha took office last year vowing to curb sexual harassment at the ministry. But the nation's first female foreign minister has not been very successful in this regard.

The foreign ministry has been in the news for a wide range of sexual abuse cases. Recently, a former ambassador to Ethiopia was sentenced to one year in jail for sexual offenses against embassy staff. He triggered public outrage by claiming that the sexual intercourse was consensual. In another case, an embassy official in Chile brought huge shame to the nation for allegations of sexually abusing a local minor. After the case at the embassy in Ethiopia, the ministry announced a no-tolerance policy with strong measures for punishing sexual offenders.

It seems that the #Metoo movement sweeping the globe has had little impact on the ministry. According to a report by Rep. Lee Seok-hyun of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, there were 12 cases of disciplinary action against ministry officials, and half of them were in relation to sexual offenses.

Since a lot of the foreign ministry's officers and staff are women, it is particularly important for the ministry to strictly implement measures to protect its female workforce both at its headquarters in Seoul and in overseas missions from various abuses. In particular, it is necessary to conduct training about appropriate sexual behavior before assigning officers to overseas embassies. Only a small number of people work at the embassies, and unwanted intimacy could become a problem.

(END)

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