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It’s about empathy

Oct 31,2017
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A consul general in Japan who was dissatisfied with her assistant claims that she meant to teach the assistant to do better, but her abuse became excessive. “You are crazy. I am considering killing you.” “Do you have a brain or not?” “I should train you like a dog. You are less than a dog.” She threw a pen at the assistant’s face. A tissue box she threw landed on the assistant’s hand and left a bruise.

The assistant saw a psychiatrist and endured the abuse for a year and a half. In the end, the assistant reported the abuse and submitted evidence, including recorded files, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The consul general is now facing heavy disciplinary action, and a criminal charge has been filed as well.

Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an inspection report on power abuse, and it is noteworthy how junior staff members are striking back. For the month of August, the ministry received reports from the entire staff on wrongful and illegal acts.

A head of a mission in Europe is also facing heavy disciplinary action. He said to staff members, “You look unhappy lately. Do you have relationship troubles?” “That’s why you are not married.” “These days, having children in one’s old age is a problem.” He claims that he had no bad intentions.

Another consul general in Japan received a written warning for giving frequent work-related orders after office hours, using a mobile messenger service for matters that were not urgent.

The ministry decided upon disciplinary actions based on the repetition of violations and evaluations from other employees.

The reports made by subordinates and juniors are not unfair accusations. Insults to one’s character and invasions of privacy can no longer be justified as “a process of training” or having been done “for smooth work flow.”

The inspection also revealed some gender issues. A female staff member at a mission in the Central and South American region put ice inside the clothes of a local male staff member who works for the embassy after she got drunk. She also showed interest in co-workers’ romantic relationships and asked whether they were sleeping together. She claimed that she was being friendly. But she was insensitive and rude.

The abuse of power became publicly discussed as the subordinates complained over the unfair treatments. Times have changed, and you can no longer say, “I can go this far without getting into trouble.”

Uncomfortable remarks and actions are not permitted. Avoiding accusations and reports is quite simple. Just put yourself in other people’s shoes.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 26, Page 37

*The author is a political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

PARK YU-MI