S. Korean Embassy in China lodges complaint with newspapers over Yoon criticism

May 5, 2023

The South Korean Embassy in China said Friday it has lodged a complaint with Chinese state newspapers for their “unfounded” criticism of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, following his recent trip to the United States, taking particular umbrage at the use of inappropriate language in their op-ed pieces.

The embassy said it sent letters to editors at Huanqiu Shibao, a newspaper under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship paper, the People’s Daily, and at the Global Times, its English edition.

“By using sensational, provocative and inappropriate language, your papers disparaged our president as well as the foreign policy of our government aimed at bringing peace and stability to the region, and did so from an extremely biased viewpoint without objective evidence,” the embassy said in the letters.

This file photo from Oct. 11, 2022, shows South Korean Ambassador to China, Chung Jae-ho. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)
This file photo from Oct. 11, 2022, shows South Korean Ambassador to China, Chung Jae-ho. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

“Some of the criticism levied at our president, using words so vulgar that they are barely repeatable, will make one wonder if they even come from news media at all,” the embassy added. “You have to put yourself in our shoes, and imagine how the Chinese public would react if South Korean media were to criticize the Chinese leader in similar ways.”

The embassy said the newspapers’ criticism doesn’t help South Korea-China ties and called on them to exercise more caution on what goes into print.

“Your newspapers are entirely responsible for any negative influence that such reporting may cause to the South Korea-China relations,” the embassy said.

While overseas missions may raise issues with media coverage in their host countries and respond to factual errors, it is considered highly unusual for an embassy to publicly disclose contents of its letters to editors at newspapers in their host nations.

Huanqiu Shibao and the Global Times are regarded as nationalistic and hawkish.

On April 23, the Global Times published an editorial headlined “South Korean diplomacy’s ‘national dignity’ in tatters over Taiwan remarks,” taking shots at Yoon’s opposition to China’s attempts to alter the status quo of the Taiwan Strait by force.

In another editorial five days later, the Global Times noted that the Yoon administration “may be the least independent-minded toward the U.S.” and claimed that his state visit to Washington ”undoubtedly confirms this evaluation.”