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ADL Calls on South Korea to Improve Ties with Israel

The Anti-Defamation League is calling on the South Korean government to develop full diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, now that the U.N. Security Council has voted to recommend South Korea’s admission to the U.N. General Assembly.

In response to the Security Council resolution, adopted Aug. 8, ADL’s national chairman, Melvin Salberg, and its national director, Abraham Foxman, issued a joint statement, saying:

“The decision to admit South Korea is one more sign of the new world that is emerging. In order for South Korea to fully participate in the spirit of that new world, it should end its policy of isolating Israel.”

Diplomatic relations do exist between the two countries, although they are admittedly strained. While South Korea has formally recognized Israel, it has never established an embassy there. It is represented by a non-resident ambassador based in Rome.

In 1978, Israel closed its embassy in Seoul because of budgetary constraints. Despite attempts on the part of the Israelis, the South Korean government has refused to allow Israel to reopen the embassy, which was established in 1964. Instead, Israel’s ambassador in Tokyo maintains dual accreditation.

Kenneth Jacobson, director of international relations for the ADL, said South Korean officials had told visiting Israeli and American officials that they would consider reopening the embassy after the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

When that date passed with no move to reopen the embassy, South Korea announced a new target date, set to coincide with South Korea’s membership in the United Nations. Now, Jacobson said, that time has come.

Shinil Park, minister of information at the South Korean Embassy in Washington, said his government had no official comment on relations with Israel at this time. But he added, “We are aware of the importance of the issue.”

Much of the strain in relations can be traced to South Korea’s pro-Arab stance, including its support of the Arab boycott of Israel and its recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinians.

There has been a small improvement in trade relations, as evidenced by last year’s $113 million of bilateral trade, up $10 million from 1989.

But references to trade with Israel are not made in official statements and publications. And many major South Korean corporations either do not trade with Israel, or do not do so openly.

Some members of Congress have relayed their concerns about trade relations between Israel and South Korea to President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, urging them to bring the matter up with South Korean officials.

The Security Council resolution, which recommends membership for North as well as South Korea, is expected to be taken up by the General Assembly on Sept. 17, the opening day of its 46th session.

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