“Inappropriate”: Yoon directly criticizes China’s ambassador

Posted on : 2023-06-14 17:28 KST Modified on : 2023-06-14 17:28 KST
The South Korean president’s comments came during a Cabinet meeting days after the Chinese ambassador’s remarks started making headlines
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks at a Cabinet meeting held at the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul, on June 13. (Yoon Woon-sik/The Hankyoreh)
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks at a Cabinet meeting held at the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul, on June 13. (Yoon Woon-sik/The Hankyoreh)

During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, South Korea’s president criticized the Chinese ambassador to Seoul, saying that the South Korean people are “unsettled by his inappropriate conduct.” A high-ranking official from the presidential office also stated that Seoul is “awaiting appropriate action” from China.

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s criticisms came on the heels of Ambassador Xing Haiming’s remarks on Thursday, where he denounced the South Korean government\'s US-leaning foreign policies, cautioning that those “betting that the US would be victorious over China” would “certainly come to regret that.”

This has sparked a severe crisis in Seoul-Beijing relations as Yoon, alongside ruling party and government officials, has responded by pressuring China.

Multiple attendees reported that during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul Yoon stated, “South Korea-China relations have always been predicated on the principles of mutual respect, fostering friendship, and pursuing common interests.”

One attendee informed the Hankyoreh that the president, while referring to Yuan Shikai, mentioned, “The relationship between the two countries should not suffer due to such incidents, regardless of the individual actions of Ambassador Xing.\"

Yuan Shikai was a Chinese figure known for his interference in the domestic affairs of Korea while posted in the country during the late Joseon period. Thus, it appears that Yuan’s name was evoked as a means of hinting that Xing’s critique of the Yoon administration’s foreign policy is considered to be an interference in Korea’s domestic affairs.

With regard to Xing’s comments, a high-ranking official from the presidential office shared, “We are awaiting China’s consideration of this issue and a subsequent appropriate response.” This statement can be interpreted as a call to China to caution, take disciplinary measures against, or replace Xing.

The South Korean official expressed discomfort during a meeting with reporters, saying, “South Korea has been striving to build a healthy Korea-China relationship, based on mutual respect and favor, while also cooperating with our allies and other liberal democratic states, in adherence with the spirit of our Constitution.” The official also described Xing\'s remarks as “misconstruing South Korea’s policy as biased or excluding certain countries.”

Members of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) have persistently voiced the need to declare Xing persona non grata and expel him. During a PPP floor planning meeting on Tuesday, Lee Chul-gyu, the party’s secretary general, stressed, “If Ambassador Xing continues to behave arrogantly, forgetting his responsibilities as a diplomat, he should be considered for designation as persona non grata,” and urged the Chinese government to “formally apologize to South Korea without further sheltering Ambassador Xing.”

At the meeting, Kim Seok-ki, a PPP member of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, also urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “seriously consider declaring Xing persona non grata and expelling him if he fails to respond to our requests for an apology or if such impudence is repeated.” However, it has been reported that the government is not currently planning to take such a step.

China has effectively turned down the request for action to be taken against Xing. During a routine press briefing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin sidestepped a direct response when asked by Korean media about the presidential office’s call for China to take appropriate action concerning Xing.

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter; Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter; Shin Hyeong-cheol, staff reporter; Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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