British envoy shares his decades-old bonds with 2 Koreas [INTERVIEW]

British envoy shares his decades-old bonds with 2 Koreas [INTERVIEW]

British Ambassador to Korea Colin Crooks speaks during an interview with The Korea Times and its sister newspaper Hankook Ilbo at his residence in central Seoul, July 28. Crooks is one of the few diplomats to have been posted in both North and South Korea. Korea Times photo by Seo Jae-hoon

UK ready to partner with Korea amid rise of Indo-Pacific

By Kwon Mee-yoo

The life of British Ambassador Colin Crooks is inextricably linked to South Korea. He is a rare diplomat who has served in both North and South Korea. Crooks was the first British diplomat to come to Seoul in 1995 and lived there for four years until 1999. During his stay, he traveled to Andong, South Gyeongsang Province for Queen Elizabeth II’s 73rd birthday.

In 2008, scammers went to the North Korean capital as interim ambassadors at the time. He returned to the mysterious country as an ambassador in 2018 and served there for a number of years until earlier this year he was summoned by the British Foreign Office to make a fresh start as ambassador to South Korea. relationship began.

The similarities in security situations between Northern Ireland, her home country, and her two Korean peninsulas mean that Northern Ireland is at a time when South Korea’s relationship with North Korea is bogged down over its relentless nuclear pursuit. Occasionally appears in Korean media. weapons program. The success of the peace process in Ireland, symbolized by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, has been touted by some experts as a possible model for reconciliation between the North and South.

He said his birthplace piqued his curiosity about his life beyond the border.

“The situation in Northern Ireland is different than the situation on the Korean Peninsula. About 25 years ago we went through the Northern Ireland peace process to find a safer and more sustainable solution,” he said. said in an interview with The Korea Times and its sister newspaper, The Hancock Daily, on March 28.

“But having grown up in Northern Ireland, I was always fascinated by Southern Ireland, and psychologically equally fascinated by the Korean Peninsula and wanted to go there.”

More than 25 years ago, Crooks When first deployed to Seoul, South Korea was a country where British diplomats received hard pay during their deployments.

“Now more British diplomats want to come to South Korea. I’m here.

British Ambassador Colin Crooks visits Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during his time as the U.K’s top envoy in North Korea in this photo uploaded May 27, 2021, a year after the British Embassy there closed. / Captured from Twitter

Time in North Korea

Crooks noted that Britain’s relationship with North Korea is very different from its relationship with South Korea.
“Britain has diplomatic relations with North Korea, and diplomats are well respected by North Korea, but the relationship is not as close as South Korea,” he said, referring to North and South by their official acronyms.

Differences in political systems have also resulted in differences in how foreign affairs are dealt with. As Britain’s top envoy in Seoul, Crooks had plenty of opportunities to meet with South Korean political and economic heavyweights, but less so in Pyongyang.

In fact, Crookes met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un only once during his stay in Pyongyang.
“About three years ago, on July 27, 2019, the Victory Day celebration was the last major event I attended.
But there have been other opportunities to meet North Korean officials: the Pyongyang Ministry of Foreign Affairs organizes an annual event for diplomats to speak directly with North Korean officials.

, which provided a rare opportunity to meet (North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho) for five minutes, and on another occasion, meet Lee Sung-kwon (Ri Yong-ho’s successor) for five minutes,” Crooks said.

“Both of you had a similar story. It was basically how to proceed with the relationship between the UK and North Korea, and in any case, this is about North Korea’s nuclear program.

As a diplomat, Crooks will travel from the North Korean capital to Nampo in the west, Wonsan in the east, and Mt. Myohyang in the north. He took pictures of Pyongyang and other parts of North Korea, posted them on Twitter, and wrote .

On major holidays like Election Day, they interact with ordinary North Koreans who are not accustomed to interacting with foreigners. I have an opportunity.

“One election day, I was walking in the back streets of Pyongyang Station and saw a group of Pyongyang citizens enjoying karaoke. They asked me to join them, so I sang ‘Arirang.

“Then an elderly man came and asked me where I learned Korean. I answered that I learned Korean in Seoul and lived in Yongsan. Taewon knew, but his daughter, worried that her father was talking to a foreigner, pulled him out of the conversation.

Crooks is believed to be the last British to set foot in North Korea. The country closed its borders shortly after the start of her COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020, and the UK had to temporarily close its embassy in Pyongyang.
“We held out until May, but we could see grocery store shelves empty for months. Bananas, lemons, oranges, etc. I saw the luxury goods sold out, and after I left Pyongyang, I heard that coffee and oil were sold out.

U.K. Ambassador to Korea Colin Crooks delivers a speech supporting sexual minorities during the Seoul Queer Culture Festival at Seoul Plaza, July 16. Yonhap

The Equality Act

Crooks is fluent in Korean and is one of the most respected foreign ambassadors here. At the Seoul Queer Culture Festival on July 16, he delivered a speech entirely in Korean in support of sexual minorities. Although we are geographically different, we share the same values ​​of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.”

He argued that the lack of social consensus meant that South Korea’s proposed comprehensive anti-discrimination law would be delayed for 15 years. He emphasized the importance of the legal system in protecting human rights, given the above obstacles.

“In the UK, we first enacted laws, followed by a consensus of British society.”

The UK Equality Act came into force in 2010, with individual equality laws legally separating people from discrimination in society. replaced by a single law that protects The law prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, gender identity, marriage and partnership, pregnancy and childbirth, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

As an ambassador for a country with similar values, Crookes wants South Korea to ensure equal rights for all people.

‘Obvious’ partners for each other

In 2021, the UK announced the Indo-Pacific Tilt, highlighting the importance of the region, especially post-Brexit. Ambassador Crooks said Britain and South Korea could be great partners for each other in this regard.
“The Indo-Pacific region has become increasingly important in political, economic and security issues.

“My aim is to establish South Korea as a ‘natural’ country for the UK to work with in the Asia-Pacific region, so that South Korea automatically considers partnerships with the UK in Europe.”

South Korea and the United Kingdom signed a bilateral framework for closer cooperation at a meeting between President Yoon Suk-yeol and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June.

“Both the UK and South Korea, for example, are very concerned about energy security issues, and the two countries share similarities in their energy mixes, with a focus on both nuclear and renewable energy,” noted Ambassador Crooks said. “South Korea can provide the UK with nuclear technology, and the UK can provide South Korea with renewable energy, so we can be great partners in that regard.”

Credit/Source : KOREATIMES

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