October 18, 2010 12:53
The Foreign Ministry plans to bolster diplomatic relations with Beijing by creating another department to handle Chinese affairs and increasing staff by about 20, it was confirmed Friday. Since Seoul formed diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1992, eight officials excluding support staff handle the Foreign Ministry's China department in Seoul. "The ministry will put the top priority on expanding its China department when it hires between 100 to 120 new staff next year," a ministry official said. "Given the surge in work involving China, it is difficult for the present staff to keep up."
The ministry also plans to open a consulate in Dalian, in addition to the current nine consulates in China including Shanghai, Qingdao, Guangzhou and Shenyang and the embassy in Beijing. It is discussing the expansion with the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the Prime Minister's Office.
In the case of diplomatic affairs involving the U.S., the Foreign Ministry has three separate departments: one that handles state affairs, another focusing on parliamentary matters and a third one focusing on security and alliance issues. But there is only one department handling China affairs. "If the additional China-related departments are established, we will be able to expand diplomatic relations by boosting regional cooperation and civilian exchanges, which we can't handle with the present staff," the ministry official said.
At present, only 85 out of the 2,000 Foreign Ministry staff speak Mandarin, so the ministry plans to step up sending staff on language study programs in China. However, it does not plan to establish a larger China bureau for the time being in consideration of the impact that could have on relations with the U.S. and Japan.
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