- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Korea’s new envoy

South Korea has chosen a major newspaper publisher to serve as its next ambassador to the United States.

Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper company and president of the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, is well-connected in South Korean business circles and has close associates in Washington, according to Korean news reports.

His nomination was generally welcomed by major political parties, although critics complained about his 1999 conviction and 63-day jail sentence for tax evasion, noted the Korea Times, owned by a rival newspaper group, during the weekend.

“It is improper that a man who was convicted of evading [the] gift tax worth [$1.7 million] is named as a high-level government official representing the nation,” said the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a nongovernment watchdog organization.

The government of President Roh Moo-hyun praised Mr. Hong for his experience and familiarity with the United States. Mr. Hong holds a doctoral degree from California’s Stanford University.

“We expect that ambassador-designate Hong will greatly contribute to strengthening the allied relationship of the two countries under a new administration of President Bush,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung.

He added that Mr. Hong is a “rational pragmatist with an acute understanding of international affairs and a consistent advocate of the government’s policy of seeking reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea.”

The Grand National Party, Mr. Roh’s main political opposition, also approved of the selection.

“We believe President Roh has made the decision on the understanding that close relations with the United States is a key to our diplomatic interests and to the resolution of the problems with the North,” said party spokesman Yim Tae-hee.

Before serving as a publisher, Mr. Hong, 55, was an executive with the South Korean corporate giant, Samsung Group, chaired by brother-in-law Lee Kun-hee.

Mr. Hong will replace Ambassador Han Sung-joo, who has served in Washington for less than two years.

Lebanon cries foul

Lebanon’s ambassador cried censorship after the State Department cited a Lebanese-based television station as a tool of the terrorist organization Hezbollah.

The designation Friday immediately halted Al-Manar’s satellite broadcasts to the United States.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Al-Manar was added to the list of terrorist organizations because its broadcasts incited violence and served as a mouthpiece for the anti-Israeli Hezbollah.

Lebanese Ambassador Farid Abboud said the Bush administration is trying to “demonize” the station.

“If you are going to focus on one side simply because of the political message, it’s unacceptable and a grave breach of freedom of speech,” he told the Reuters news service.

Mr. Boucher said, “It’s not a question of free speech. It’s a question of inciting to violence, and we don’t see why here or anywhere else a terrorist organization should be allowed to spread its hatred and incitement through the television airwaves.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Iraqi Finance Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who discusses his country’s economy at the National Press Club at 3:30 p.m.

• Alexandre Kukhianidze of the Georgia office of the Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, who discusses conditions in the separatist areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a briefing for guests at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty at 9 a.m.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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