|President Moon Jae-in speaks at the start of a weekly Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Wednesday. Left is Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
President Moon Jae-in criticized the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), Wednesday, for defending people involved in the leaking of the content of his telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Moon lamented the LKP's "irrational" behavior, saying confidentiality is an integral part of diplomacy, and the LKP should know this.
"I am very sorry to see the LKP labeling the leak of a phone conversation between heads of state as the people's right to know and attempting to defend the persons involved. Because telephone conversations between heads of state include sensitive details on diplomatic matters, this can't be a source of political strife," Moon said at the start of a weekly Cabinet meeting.
"The government offers an apology for the leak of classified information that may affect national security. It's not excusable or explainable as it shouldn't have happened."
The remarks came a day after Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the ministry will file a criminal complaint against a diplomat working at the South Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., and LKP Rep. Khang Hyo-shang for leaking details of the telephone conversation with Trump on May 7 (KST).
The diplomat, who attended the same high school as the lawmaker, admitted to leaking the information to Khang and has been removed from his duties at the embassy.
With the information obtained from the diplomat, the LKP lawmaker slammed President Moon's nuclear diplomacy in a news conference claiming the President directly asked Trump to visit South Korea on his way back to Washington, D.C., after his trip to Tokyo this week.
"At least if you are a political party wishing to handle state affairs in the future with public support, I request (the LKP) to respect the value of common sense regarding issues of state operations," Moon said.
He also demanded his Cabinet members apply stricter disciplinary measures to all government officials to prevent further problems. Some presidential aides told The Korea Times that the President is unlikely to sack Foreign Minister Kang "immediately," though lawmakers in the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are calling on him to "rethink" her leadership.
Following an investigation into the leak, at least three other diplomats or officials at the embassy are suspected of providing and sharing details of the Moon-Trump phone talks to others.
DPK lawmakers strongly criticized Khang ― a former managing editor of the ultra-right Chosun Ilbo daily newspaper from March 2013 to September 2015 ― saying the leak will cause diplomatic problems between Seoul and Washington and also have a major impact on mutual trust between President Moon and Trump.
In a briefing at the National Assembly, Wednesday afternoon, DPK spokeswoman Jeong Choon-sook told reporters the party will ask the Assembly to hold a special session to question the LKP lawmaker. "It doesn't make any sense for Khang to commit illegal activities to create political strife," she said.
Trump will hold his "brief" summit next month with President Moon in South Korea, to discuss how to quickly resume denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, which are at a standstill due to differences over the definition of denuclearization and possible levels of sanction easing.