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Politicians slam presidential trip

Opposition leaders said Korea’s pride has been damaged
Dec 16,2017
Opposition parties from both ends of the political spectrum lashed out at President Moon Jae-in’s visit to China Friday, citing the Korean journalists beaten by Chinese guards and Moon’s failure to gain assurance from Beijing that its economic retaliations would end a “diplomatic catastrophe.”

Hong Joon-pyo, chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, who’s currently visiting Japan, said Friday during a press conference with Korean correspondents there that Moon was “no more or less visiting China to render tribute to the emperor’s inauguration.”

“The Chinese leader invited a state guest, then went off leaving Beijing. The two didn’t even issue a joint statement [after their summit],” said Hong. “Our national pride has been injured.”

Hong, a presidential contender who competed against Moon to come in second place last May, said the Blue House basically surrendered its military sovereignty when it promised China the three nos: no additional deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system, no joining of a broader U.S. missile defense system and no Korea-U.S.-Japan military alliance.

Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the People’s Party, who came in third in the presidential election, went a step further to demand that the government replace Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Korean Ambassador to China Noh Young-min for their failure to prevent two Korean photojournalists from being severely beaten by Chinese security guards last Thursday.

“I want to ask,” Ahn said, “What kind of diplomacy can’t even protect its own reporters accompanying [the president]?” Ahn snubbed the four principle agreements Moon and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed upon in their summit, saying the Korean public “doesn’t even care” because they were occupied by the news of the assault.

“I beg you to bring back at least one piece of our shattered ego,” Ahn lamented.

Rep. Kim Dong-cheol, floor leader of the People’s Party, blamed Moon for failing to mark a definitive end to the Thaad row and asking Beijing to do more to pressure Pyongyang, adding that his summit with Xi will be marked in Korean diplomatic history as the worst one ever.

“In a nutshell,” said Kim, “it’s a diplomatic catastrophe, and a humiliating example of diplomacy that flung down our national pride and our national ego only to obsess over that one bilateral summit.”

Rep. Yu Eui-dong, spokesman of the minor conservative Bareun Party, said China intentionally insulted Moon by having him eat most his meals alone in the country and beating his reporters. Yu urged Moon to tell the Korean public of the disgrace he experienced immediately upon his return to Seoul.

Choi Seok, spokesman of the minor left-leaning Justice Party, feared the assault incident might harm Korea-China relations, saying the Blue House ought to clarify who was to blame in the scuffle.

BY PARK SEONG-HUN AND YOO SUNG-WOON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]