Putin Plays Havoc with Diplomatic Protocol

      November 14, 2013 11:34

      Russian President Vladimir Putin behaved erratically during his visit to Seoul on Wednesday, arriving 30 minutes late for a summit with President Park Geun-hye and making several last-minute changes to his itinerary.

      Seoul and Moscow agreed on Nov. 1 that Putin would visit Korea this Tuesday and Wednesday, but Russia informed the Korean government on Nov. 4 that Putin wanted a change in schedule, shortening the trip to a single-day visit.

      That means the government had to give invited guests for the official luncheon short notice that it had been moved.

      The Russians gave no clear reason for the change in schedule. Putin arrived at Incheon Airport at 2:50 a.m. Wednesday from Vietnam and rested in a hotel in Seoul. He met with Korean and Russian business representatives later in the morning and apparently told them his arrival had been delayed by typhoon Haiyan.

      But the Korean Embassy in Vietnam said the typhoon already passed on Monday and should not have impacted Putin's schedule. Instead, the embassy said, Putin had a packed schedule during his one-day visit on Tuesday to the Southeast Asian country, where he met Prime Minister Ngyuen Tan Dung and other officials, which could have delayed his scheduled departure.

      President Park Geun-hye and her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Seoul on Wednesday /Newsis

      Putin then arrived about half an hour late for his meeting with Park at Cheong Wa Dae scheduled for 1:30 p.m., a major diplomatic faux paus. The Russian leader was apparently delayed by a welcome by the Korea Sambo Federation. Sambo is a Russian martial art and Putin, who is prone to displays of manly vigor, is honorary chairman of the International Sambo Federation.

      He left Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul at around 1:10 p.m., around 10 minutes late already, and then insisted on stopping his motorcade as he passed members of the Korea Sambo Federation who were standing on the sidewalk holding a banner welcoming him. He spent around 15 minutes pressing the flesh and having his photo taken with them.

      The Korean presidential security team was surprised by the unscheduled stop. Earlier in the day, Putin also made an appearance at the Korea-Russia Business Dialogue at Lotte Hotel, which was scheduled at the last minute at his request.

      As the summit started late, the joint press conference did not take place until 4:05 p.m., an hour and a half later than planned.

      That in turn delayed Putin's scheduled appearances at the Korea-Russia Dialogue Forum with Park and the unveiling of a statue of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

      In Incheon on his way to the airport, Putin paid his respects at a monument remembering the Russian battleship Varyag that sank off Incheon in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, and met briefly with Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil before leaving Korea late in the evening.

      A Foreign Ministry official said officials here had no choice but to go along with Putin's schedule changes.

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