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Hassle over Ambassador Harris

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By Choi Sung-jin
American ambassadors to South Korea have often played a role far bigger than just head of the country's diplomatic mission here.

Until the nation emerged as a fledgling democracy in the late 1980s, military generals-turned-dictators had to anticipate Washington's reaction before making major decisions, by contacting top U.S. envoys in Seoul. Since the 1990s, U.S. ambassadors have exerted influence ― big and small, desirable and undesirable ― on this country's political and social affairs.

All of those American ambassadors did their unofficial jobs in secretive ways, however. What they did came to light years or decades following the declassification of diplomatic papers.

In this regard, incumbent U.S. Ambassador Harry B. Harris Jr. has set himself apart from his predecessors in at least two ways. First, Amb. Harris seems to make it no secret that he has been and will be intervening in internal affairs ― or sovereign decisions ― of the host country. Second, by doing so, the U.S. mission chief is hurting not just bilateral relationship but his own country's interests by estranging most South Koreans.

There are examples aplenty.

During a news conference on Jan. 14, President Moon Jae-in expressed his intention to allow South Koreans to individually visit North Korea as tourists, saying thisit would not violate U.N. sanctions and could induce the North to return to dialogue.

Barely two days had passed........

© The Korea Times