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DP Chief Lee's 'Xie Xie' Comment Sparks Controversy

Written: 2024-03-28 16:10:16Updated: 2024-03-28 16:24:13

DP Chief Lee's 'Xie Xie' Comment Sparks Controversy

Photo : YONHAP News

Anchor: The main opposition Democratic Party(DP) chief Lee Jae-myung's so-called "xie xie” comment during a campaign speech last week has sparked controversy at home. While saying that the South Korean government should say, in Chinese "xie xie," meaning "thank you," to both China and Taiwan, Lee criticized Seoul's foreign policy toward Beijing. In response, the ruling party said Lee and his party are subservient to China and Chinese media outlets earlier this week started to report about his remarks.
Kim Bum-soo has more.   


[Sound bite: Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung's street rally in Dangjin, S. Chungcheong Province (Mar. 22)] 

The opposition leader’s remarks in question came during his campaign speech at a traditional market in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province last week.  

[Sound bite: Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung (Korean-English/Mar. 22)]
“China was South Korea’s top export market, but now South Korea is importing mostly from China. Chinese people don’t buy South Korean products because they don’t like South Korea. Why are we bothering China? We should just say ‘xie xie’ [to China] and ‘xie xie’ to Taiwan as well. Why do we interfere in cross-strait [China-Taiwan] relations? Why do we care what happens to the Taiwan Strait? Shouldn’t we just take care of ourselves?”

Democratic Party(DP) chairman Lee Jae-myung aimed at the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s tighter partnership with Washington and Tokyo, which he said, ruined Seoul-Beijing relations.  

The “xie xie” remark and his criticisms of Seoul’s foreign policy immediately sparked controversies at home with the ruling People Power Party(PPP) leader Han Dong-hoon calling Lee and his party “subservient” to China.  

[Sound bite: People Power Party emergency council chief Han Dong-hoon (Korean-English/Mar. 24)]
“The Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung’s so-called ‘xie xie’ remarks the other day have demonstrated once again the DP’s subservient mindset toward China… " 
“Lee said that the country should just sit by and watch the cross-strait [China-Taiwan] relations. Can we really just watch when the world is splitting into blocs? If it’s okay to just watch, why aren’t other neighboring countries just doing that? This is an act against national interests.” 

The South Korean opposition leader’s remarks also reached China, where its state-run English media outlets posted video clips and published headlines such as "What does the Taiwan issue have to do with South Korea?"

The coverage has since been deleted from most Chinese English media outlets’ websites as of Thursday afternoon.

Ahead of the elections in less than two weeks, foreign policy experts, including affiliate professor Kim Byoung-joo of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said that Lee, with his campaign schtick, is seeking to make the Yoon administration's China policy a topic of the local elections.     

[Sound bite: Prof. Kim Byoung-joo - Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies]
"I think he made such remarks in order to appeal to his supporters. It may work as one of the criticisms against what the Yoon government has done. But, will he attract more votes for his party's candidates because of this? I would doubt that."

As the liberal campaign rhetoric received highlights from China, a conservative group of over 200 retired South Korean diplomats released a statement, blaming Lee for his “shallow perception and frivolous expressions" regarding the country’s diplomacy and international order. 
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.

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