President Yoon's Summit Diplomacy: A Humble 30 Minutes and 48 Seconds

Yoo Jeong-in, New York 2022. 9. 23. 14:04
글자크기 설정 파란원을 좌우로 움직이시면 글자크기가 변경 됩니다.

이 글자크기로 변경됩니다.

(예시) 가장 빠른 뉴스가 있고 다양한 정보, 쌍방향 소통이 숨쉬는 다음뉴스를 만나보세요. 다음뉴스는 국내외 주요이슈와 실시간 속보, 문화생활 및 다양한 분야의 뉴스를 입체적으로 전달하고 있습니다.

Holding onto Biden’s Arm: President Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden talk at the Global Fund Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York on September 21 (local time). New York / Yonhap News

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s meetings with the leaders of the United States and Japan, which was the highlight of his trip to the U.K., U.S. and Canada, end as a “chat” and an “informal meeting.” The formality of the meeting was shorter and more casual than initially planned, and there were no notable outcomes. In the meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, President Yoon expressed his concern on the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). In the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the two leaders agreed to improve bilateral relations by resolving the issue of forced labor. The leaders reaffirmed their basic position rather than produce any visible outcomes. On top of this, there was the inadequate language used by President Yoon. It will be difficult for the president to avoid criticism for his poor job in foreign affairs, from problems in preparing the meetings with state leaders to the production of outcomes.

In a press briefing in New York on September 22 (local time), Kim Sung-han, director of national security, announced that President Yoon spoke with President Biden on three occasions from September 18 to 21, and that the two discussed various issues including the IRA, cooperation to stabilize the finances in both countries, and extended deterrence. During the talks, President Yoon conveyed the concerns of South Korean businesses over the Inflation Reduction Act and said, “We seek close cooperation with the U.S. administration in the process of enforcing the bill to ease the concerns in South Korea.” President Biden mentioned that the U.S. was aware of South Korea’s concerns and suggested that the two countries sincerely continue discussions. This day, the White House also announced, “The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the U.S.-R.O.K. alliance and ensure close cooperation to address the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” However, they did not directly mention the IRA.

Earlier, the Office of the President announced that there would be a summit meeting with the U.S., but an official summit never took place. Instead, President Yoon spoke with President Biden at the reception hosted by King Charles III in London on September 18, and at the Global Fund Seventh Replenishment Conference and a reception hosted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden on September 21. At the Global Fund conference, the two men spoke for only 48 seconds, and all three conversations were brief. According to the presidential office, during the talks, the two leaders ‘approved’ the agenda, which the national security offices of the two countries had prepared for a possible summit meeting. A senior official in the Office of the President said, “It was the result of the opinion that what was important was the details, not the formality.”

The Office of the President also organized the president’s meeting with the Japanese leader, which it had publicly announced, in the form of an informal and brief talk. On September 21, President Yoon met and exchanged opinions with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for half an hour in a building near the United Nations Headquarters. The two men agreed on the need to improve bilateral relations and to jointly respond to North Korea’s nuclear program. Forced labor during the colonial era, the key issue in improving relations, was not mentioned when the two countries released the outcome of the talk. However, the senior official in the presidential office mentioned the South Korean government’s announcement on how the two leaders agreed on the need to resolve pending issues to improve bilateral relations and said, “The issue that the two countries are focusing on to improve bilateral relations is forced labor.” He seemed to imply that the two leaders mentioned the issue but did not reach a conclusion. The summit meeting between the leaders of South Korea and Japan took the form of “informal” talks after a battle of nerves between the two governments. This tarnished the meaning of resuming the South Korea-Japan summit meeting after two years and nine months. The meeting was held without disclosing the schedule and opening comments to the press, which was unusual. Japan referred to the meeting as a “chat” and not a meeting.

As if the debate on the formality of the talks and whether the presidential office was able to arrange a summit was not enough, there was the foul language used by President Yoon. As the president was leaving the Global Fund conference, he said to Foreign Minister Park Jin, “It would be so humiliating for Biden if these idiots don’t pass it in parliament.” This was caught on a hot mic, or a hot camera in this case, stirring controversy over a diplomatic disaster. The official from the presidential office defined the president’s comment as a “private remark’ and said, “It is quite regrettable that a diplomatic disaster is being mentioned over something like that.”

Kim Eun-hye, the president’s senior press secretary accompanying the president on his trip, met with reporters in a press room in New York on the morning of September 22 (local time) and explained that the president had actually expressed concern about opposition from the Democratic Party of Korea in the controversial remark. She argued that the “idiots” did not refer to the U.S. Congress, and that the president never mentioned Biden.

Copyright © 경향신문. 무단전재 및 재배포 금지.

이 기사에 대해 어떻게 생각하시나요?