U.S. Envoy 'to Quit' Amid Increasing Frustration

  • By Kim Jin-myung

    April 10, 2020 10:06

    U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris wants to resign after the U.S. presidential election in November due to frustration over "increasing acrimony" between Seoul and Washington and personal attacks on him here, Reuters reported Thursday quoting anonymous sources.

    "He's been wanting to stay only until November rather than serving in the second term" even if U.S. President Donald Trump wins the presidential election, one source told Reuters.

    Harris, a political appointment with no diplomatic experience, took up his post on July 7, 2018 after it had lain vacant for over a year. He has trodden on many toes during his fraught tenure. If he resigns he will have served for about two years and four months.

    Harry Harris

    A retired admiral, Harris waded into a number of controversies, not least by having to parrot his boss' often boorish demands for more Korean money.

    He has also pushed the government here to tread the American party line. When Seoul mooted plans earlier this year to engage with North Korea by allowing individual tourists to travel there, Harris took it upon himself to slam on the brakes.

    "In order to avoid a misunderstanding later that could trigger sanctions... it's better to run this through the working group" set up by the two countries, he warned. This was quickly denounced in government circles as interference in Seoul's internal affairs.

    Some Koreans who took umbrage at his tone even found fault with his moustache, which combined with his Japanese-American heritage reminded them of the Japanese occupiers between 1910 and 1945.

    Harris was summoned by the Foreign Ministry to hear a complaint in August last year, when U.S. government officials openly expressed disappointment over Seoul's scrapping of its military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo.

    Last October, pro-North Korean students climbed over a wall into his residence in downtown Seoul, where they staged an anti-U.S. demonstration for over an hour.

    The U.S. Embassy denied the report and said Harris "remains energized to continue to serve the United States" in accordance with Trump's wishes. It added the envoy regards Korea as the best place of service and the best partner and ally of the U.S. "His commitment to strengthening the U.S.-[Korea] alliance through active engagement with government interlocutors, the wonderful people, and the independent media in [Korea] remains ironclad," it added.

    But the peevish note in the reference to "independent" media seemed unmistakable.

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