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The Korea Post ‘too choosy’ in organizing diplomat tours

LOCAL TOURS

Proper protocol, decorum, respect for ambassadors closely checked

The Korea Post ‘too choosy’
in organizing diplomat tours

It is almost 40 years since I started covering the diplomatic community when I was the cultural editor of Korea’s leading English daily, The Korea Herald, in the mid-1970s. At the time, I covered the cultural areas, including interviews with the ambassadors, their spouses and families on culture and art, as the political areas were covered by the political editor.

Ambassadors and madams attending the tour of Ulsan organized by The Korea Post in 2001.

President Park Chung-Hee died in late 1979 and Maj. Gen. Chun Doo-Hwan took over the power by a coup. Chun then carried out a media purge ridding the press of his potential critics. I got a ‘stray bullet’ and left The Korea Herald. However, thanks to this, I established The Korea Post Co., Ltd. and started publishing the English monthly, which brought me back to serving the diplomatic and international community.

One of the major activities at The Korea Post is organizing tours for the ambassadors and their spouses and other senior members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps (SDC) to various festivals, conferences and other events hosted by the provincial governors, city mayors and county magistrates. Sometimes the tours are to major industrial establishments such as large shipyards, automotive plants, steel-iron mills, electronic assemblies and pharmaceutical companies.

Ambassadors and madams and other senior diplomats pose for the camera with Mayor Ahn Sang-soo of the Incheon Metropolitan City at Lunar Full Moon Festival. The Hanbok Korean garments worn by the envoys were presented by the City.

Organizing such tours is a truly rewarding work as they provide The Korea Post with a sense of pride in assisting the diplomats in learning first-hand the ‘true features’ of the Korean people and tradition.

The ‘Koreans’ you see everyday in Seoul are not much different from the people you see in any other metropolis around the world.

Most of the traditional Korean folk festivals and historical events are held in the countryside as they originated there.

The industrial tours offer the diplomats an important opportunity to inspect first-hand the production facilities, raw material storage domes and assembly lines.

Ambs. Toshiyuki Takano of Japan (right) and Umana Chinchilla of Honduras try their skills in Korean rice- cake-making with a large mallet.

There are many important things the tour organizes must check in advance prior to accepting the offer of the tour.

The first thing is to make sure the host is fully aware of the importance of the protocol and decorum in the accommodation of ambassadors and madams and other senior members of the SDC.

The Korea Post informs the host that an ambassador is the official representative of the country and therefore the host should regard the mission chief as respectfully as he/she would the President of his country and his spouse as he would the First Lady.

Environment Minister Yoo Young-sook (center) displays a Korean Unification shirt with Ambassador Jams-hidov of Azerbaijan (left) and Ambassador Koirala of Nepal

If the interpreter comes from the host side instead of The Korea Post, the interpreter is briefly trained in advance to address the ambassadors and their spouses properly using proper titles of office and honorifics such as Excellency, Sir and Madam.

Then comes the importance of accurate and full details of the festival. Prior to the tour, The Korea Post publishes in advance two to three pages fully explaining the festival in its print edition and on the internet as well as up-to-the- minute information through its e-daily, Korean Daily Media Headlines.

The Korea Post assigns the top-rate journalists to prepare and publish the stories and photos before and after the tour. Sometimes, each writer and interpreter is paid up to one million won per day to ensure that the information is accurate and full and, mostly important, in good English so that the ambassadors and other senior diplomats could fully and correctly understand the event and learn accurate information concerning the festival so that they can have better understanding of the Korean culture, history and art.

Vice Chairman Chung Ui-sun of Hyundai Motors Group (right) guides Ambassador Alfredo Ungo of El Sal-vador (dean of Diplomatic Corps, left) and other ambassadors to a luncheon room during a tour of Hyundai Motors with Ambassador Ivashenchov of Russia (center).

Then there are the food and beverage. The local governments want to boost the ‘culinary wonders’ of their regions and to introduce them far and wide to the world.

However, there are foods that some countries do not take while other countries like them. Some countries do not take beef and other countries stay away from pork. Still other countries are strictly vegetarian and take no animal meat, including fish. The safest way in this situation is to prepare an international buffet, where the host could include some of the local specialties that they want to introduce to the outside world.

The Korea Post receives many offers from the local governments and industries for organizing the diplomat tours for them, but it accepts only those that adequately meet the protocol, food and other requirements, including comfortable travel, as well as the interest on the part of the participating countries in the event. k

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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