Opinion
[Editorial] Umbrella protocol
Aide kneels to hold umbrella for vice minister in outdoor briefing
Published : Aug 30, 2021 - 05:30
Updated : Aug 30, 2021 - 05:30
Vice Minister of Justice Kang Sung-kook on Friday gave a briefing to reporters on government measures to help 390 “special contributors” from Afghanistan settle here.

They entered Korea as part of Seoul’s efforts to evacuate Afghans who worked at the Korean Embassy in Afghanistan and other government facilities in the country and their families, who feared for their safety after the Taliban took power.

The briefing proceeded in the open air outside the National Human Resources Development Institute in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, when it was raining steadily.

Behind Kang, his aide was kneeling on the wet asphalt holding an umbrella. The aide was protecting Kang from getting rained on. The employee maintained that posture throughout the briefing, which lasted about nine minutes.

The sight astonished viewers. People felt angry and humiliated on behalf of the employee.

Criticism poured in: “Was it necessary to bring him to his knees?” “Is the superior’s authority diminished if someone else holds an umbrella for him while standing by? ”Considering that this happened at an official event broadcast live, it is not hard to imagine superiors coming down hard on their subordinates in the ministry at other times,” ”How heartbreaking the employee’s family will feel at the sight!”

Some netizens posted photos showing leaders of some foreign countries holding umbrellas themselves at ceremonies or in front of reporters.

With controversy mounting, Kang apologized. The ministry said that the aide kneeled to avoid being on camera and that there were no related instructions or guidelines.

It is understandable to blame cameramen and photojournalists who demanded the aide lower his body so Kang would appear in the shot alone. Be that as it may, the vice minister or other officials should not have let the unsightly scene happen.

To begin with, the ceremony should have been held indoors. Or they should have signaled the employee to hold an umbrella for Kang while standing by and asked the media for their understanding. However, they didn’t for fear of ruining the publicity of the senior official.

The best alternative to avoid criticism was for Kang to hold the umbrella himself. Doing so is not demeaning. Thinking otherwise is a legacy of authoritarianism that must vanish.

For whatever reason, carrying on the ceremony with an employee kneeling in the rain to spotlight a senior official deserves to be denounced.

The ceremony was held to emphasize that the South Korean government has a strong interest in global human rights issues. That’s why officials of the ministry in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, went to Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, for the briefing. The Afghans arrived at Incheon Airport Thursday, where they took COVID-19 tests, then moved to the institute in Jincheon for quarantine.

In a briefing at Incheon Airport, Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said that by helping them, Korea joined the international rank of countries that rolled up their sleeves to defend democracy and human rights. Behind these people who mention democracy and human rights was an employee holding an umbrella on his knees in the rain. If Afghan arrivals looked at the scene in question, they might have wondered if the country really respects human rights.

Ministry officials reportedly quarreled with broadcasting camera crew and photojournalists on Thursday over the coverage of the Afghan arrivals at the airport. An official was said to have told them that the ministry may cancel its approval of their coverage of the airport arrivals if they refuse to cover a ceremony in which the minister gives dolls as gifts to arriving Afghan children. Reporters argued that they came to the airport to shoot the Afghans’ arrival, but the tussle ended when some of the reporters agreed to shoot the event involving the minister.

It is deplorable that the backward way of thinking still remains in Korea in the year 2021.

By Korea Herald (koreaherald@heraldcorp.com)
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