Off the record at New York’s Korea Society

The inconsequential Korea Society hosted OK consul general to New York Kim Yong mok on 17 May 2012 in its New York offices.

He engaged in a “conversation” with the Society’s president Mark Minton, a former US ambassador to South Korea and a man who cut his teeth on the state department’s Soviet desk, among other assignments.

Minton warned the 70 or so attendees that Kim’s remarks on “Korea and the world: Iran, North Korea and the US ROK partnership” were off the record.

He needn’t bothered. For the best thing the consul general could do on Iran was to haltingly regurgitate what any alert schoolboy or girl could gather were he willing to look at an atlas and read the major press stories on Iran.

As for North Korea, Kim did the best his functions as a bureaucrat could do: make propaganda. He simply recited a rosary of sorrows in his dealings with North Korea, saying nothing that would violate the hardline approach towards Pyongyang taken by his president Lee Myung bak and the Obama administration.

Yet, he did reveal his inability as a Korean to “read” his fellow Koreans in the DPRK, in spite of long hours of negotiating with them during the 1990s.

Kim had little to say about the US ROK partnership. In itself, that is not surprising, since by any which way you slice the Korea Society’s cake, they vary little from the deadening orthodoxy of current relations with and funding by the South Korean government.

Although he has a certain command of English, it is surprising, compared to his predecessors, how less than fluent it is. Mitten would have saved Kim from searching for words in English and endlessly repeating himself, which is the mark of a limited grasp of English.

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