November 08, 2016 12:36
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is two weeks away, but the government is in such disarray over a crony scandal that it has yet to decide whom to send.
President Park Geun-hye would be an embarrassment, and the post of prime minister is held temporarily by Hwang Kyo-ahn, who already resigned to take the fall in the early stages of the scandal.
No replacement is in sight as Park tries to foist a candidate from across the aisle, Kim Byong-joon, on the nation without consulting lawmakers, who are almost certain to block him.
The APEC summit in Lima, Peru from Nov. 19-20 is the biggest international diplomatic gathering at the end of the year and will be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Many will also meet face-to-face on the sidelines to discuss burning issues, wheel and deal. But the government has yet to inform APEC officials whether it will send a representative at all, bringing home the stark reality of the power vacuum caused by the scandal.
A Korean president has attended every APEC Summit since the inaugural meeting in Seattle, Washington in 1993 but probably not this one. A government source said, "Staff are looking into hotel rooms to reserve, but it remains to be seen if Korea is able to attend."
The scandal is having considerable effects on other diplomatic business. The annual trilateral summit between Korea, China and Japan is being postponed. Presidential secretary Kim Kyu-hyun has said Park will attend if a date is set, but Japan's Asahi Shimbun said there are serious doubts over Park's attendance due to the scandal.
Park does plan to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a widely shunned kleptocrat who visits Korea on Thursday and is perhaps likely to feel embarrassed.
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