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"Trade minister to be held responsible for EU FTA fiasco"

Dong-A-Ilbo, Korea

"Trade minister to be held responsible for EU FTA fiasco"

8 April 2011

Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon, who is considered his government’s leading trade expert, is on the brink of resignation over translation errors in the Korean version of the Korea-European free trade agreement.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik told a Q&A session on diplomacy, unification and national security at the National Assembly Thursday, “On behalf of the government, I have nothing to say. I deeply apologize,” adding that those related to the debacle including the trade minister should be held responsible.

The prime minister was answering Rep. Chun Jung-bae of the main opposition Democratic Party who asked, “The translation errors in the agreement are a global embarrassment for Korea. Shouldn’t he (Kim Jong-hoon) be dismissed?”

Prime Minister Kim said, “There should be no dismissal, and since he`s not a Cabinet member, the National Assembly cannot ask the president to dismiss him. But he should be held responsible for bringing confusion to the people with translation errors and disappointing the public,” adding, “I`ll discuss this with the president."

The prime minister implied that he will propose to the president on holding the trade minister responsible.

Trade Minister Kim has also said several times that he will be responsible for what he did. In particular, he expressed intent to resign over the mistranslation but whether he will step down remains to be seen.

A source from the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said, “There are responsibility issues but we lack a person as capable as Kim. The government has to work on the agreement until the National Assembly ratifies it, and needs to sign FTAs with other countries such as China.”

When the controversy broke out, Kim was the one who proposed that the government admit its mistakes and "break through the obstacle through a thorough self-examination."

Separately, the Korean Foreign Affairs and Ministry said Wednesday that Korea ranks first in the growth rate of overseas development assistance among 23 member nations of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development but ran a correction Thursday that Korea ranked second following Portugal.

Though a simple mistake made by an employee who misunderstood the summary of the upcoming OECD report, it displayed another loophole of the ministry`s system that verifies external presentation documents.