Monday, September 18, 2006

US Envoy's Wife Violates Korean Work Laws

In the Korean Times today, there is an article about the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Korea. Apparently, she is a jewelry designer and is now being accused of breaking Korea’s work laws because she sold jewelry through a gallery in Insa-dong without a Korean work permit. She said that she checked with embassy staff and no one saw a problem, but I find this hard to believe. It doesn’t seem like this would be the first time this issue has come up. I would think that even military spouses living in Korea have to deal with this issue. You would think the Embassy would be all over this one! In addition, the article stated that she handed out her business card at diplomatic receptions. To me, there is just no way that can be ethical. I won’t even take my son’s Cub Scout Popcorn sales sheet up to the office because my husband is the boss, and I don’t want people to feel obligated to buy! She said she shielded herself because she didn’t know the identities of the buyers at the gallery, but even she acknowledges that her jewelry gets recognition because of her status. Finally, she said she hopes that the laws can be clarified because as she states: ``It helps general morale of an embassy if more people are able to do what they have skills to do. It's very hard to expect somebody to pack up, move to another country, give up their job and be thrilled about that.'' I think this is a strange statement from the wife of a career diplomat. U.S. Government employees live all over the world, and all have to deal with the laws of the country in which they reside. Spouses make these types of decisions and sacrifices all the time. Why does she think her situation is unique? It seems like Korean laws are clear- she just didn't follow them. Again, I found it difficult to believe that the US Embassy did not find this a conflict of interest to begin with.



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