Park Geun-hye will send first special envoys to China

Posted on : 2013-01-17 15:31 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Selection of China as first destination signals Park’s prioritization of relations with Beijing
 Saenuri Party's election campaign manager and former lawmaker
Saenuri Party's election campaign manager and former lawmaker

By Kim Oi-hyun, staff reporter

President-elect Park Geun-hye will dispatch a team of special envoys to China on Jan. 22, a reflection of her campaign pledge to put greater emphasis on Korea-China relations. China is the first of the four countries that surround Korea to which a special envoy will be sent. The delegation is to be headed by her campaign manager and former lawmaker Kim Moo-sung.

The president-elect’s spokesperson Park Sun-kyu announced in a press briefing on Jan. 16, “The four member delegation to China will include former representative Kim, representatives Shim Yoon-joe and Cho Won-jin, and Han Suk-hee, a professor in the graduate school of international studies at Yonsei University. The delegation is scheduled to return to South Korea on Jan. 24, having paid a courtesy visit to Xi Jinping, Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party and met other party leaders.”

Park is setting a precedent in sending her first team of special envoys to China. In 2002, president-elect Roh Moo-hyun acknowledged the importance of South Korea-US relations by sending his first envoy to the United States. In 2008 Lee Myung-bak dispatched envoys to Russia, China, Japan, and the US at the same time. Park Geun-hye herself visited China as Lee’s special envoy in 2008.

Lee Myung-bak has been criticized for focusing on South Korea-US relations at the expense of bilateral relations with China. Park’s choice to first send a delegation to China is therefore being interpreted as a move to restore relations with China, which have worsened under the Lee Myung-bak government. This move is viewed not just as a result of growing economic ties with China but also because of China’s important role in bringing peace to the Korean peninsula. While campaigning for the presidential election, Park pledged to develop South Korea’s relationship with China as a strategic cooperative partner. “This is an important message, conveyed through the protocol of foreign affairs,” said a foreign affairs source. “The symbolism attached to choosing South Korea-China relations as paramount and dispatching a foreign envoy there first is significant.” It is possible that Japan may resent Park’s announcement that she will first send an envoy to China.

Spokesperson Park said on the matter of the delegation’s duties, “The delegation will affirm friendly relations between China and South Korea, and in a rapidly changing Northeast Asia region discuss ways of developing bilateral ties with the country’s largest trading partner. As strategic cooperative partners, security issues will also be discussed.” Observers are viewing the special envoy delegation as an attempt to gain China’s understanding and cooperation as part of the Park’s efforts to realize her pledge to hold strategic discussions between South Korea, the United States and China. But observers say that it is difficult to discuss practical cooperation through these non-diplomatic channels.

In explaining the choice to send the first envoy to China, spokesperson Park said, “The sending of our special envoy is a formal response to the request of Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, who visited Park as a special envoy of China’s, that South Korea send an envoy to China. There is no special meaning in choosing China as the first envoy destination. We are aware of requests from other countries. If we decide that there is a need, we will consult and send a delegation at the appropriate date.”


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