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A savage welcome

Dec 15,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s first state visit to China has been overshadowed by an appalling use of force by Chinese security. Members of the Korean press corps covering Moon’s visit to China have been injured after being assaulted by security guards. The guards punched and kicked a Korean reporter and pushed Blue House officials trying to stop the beating. We are dumbfounded and enraged at such violence against visitors.

The press often get into scuffles with security guards. Such scenes can turn intense and even violent in the heat of the moment. But the situation in Beijing was entirely different. Korean reporters were assaulted several times and the victims were seriously injured on their faces and heads. The incident took place while Moon took a tour of Korean corporate booths at a trade fair.

When the press was stopped by Chinese security, they showed the press permits that authorize them to follow the president closely. When one complained, the guards grabbed and pushed him to the floor. The reporter could not get up for several minutes. When another reporter protested, he was taken to a corner and beaten by a group of guards. They kicked him so hard that the reporter had to be taken to a hospital. Blue House officials trying to stop them were also shoved away.

The president is on a state visit, the highest level of protocol in hosting a country’s leader. The entire entourage including the press must be treated as invited guests. We are outraged by the rude welcome. A cold-shoulder by Beijing was anticipated to some extent. In advance it was decided that there would be no joint press conference or statement after summit talks and Moon was greeted at the airport by a vice ministerial-level official. He was not invited to a lunch meeting with Premier Li Keqiang. The Chinese, who value treating their guests with hearty meals, did not offer the Korean president as many as it should.

We must not let this incident go. The Chinese state media has been equally rude. The Global Times said some Korean media were not helping improve bilateral ties by finding fault with Beijing’s treatment of Moon. Seoul must demand thorough and responsible actions from Beijing. China must investigate and punish the assailants in this incident and offer a genuine apology to the victims. The government must also be stern with the case regardless of the president’s agenda in Beijing. Who would have confidence in a president and government if they turn a blind eye to their own people getting beaten up before their own eyes?

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 15, Page 38