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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on June 2)

All News 07:06 June 02, 2021

Suspicious error
Cheong Wa Dae blames contractor after Pyongyang appears in opening video for P4G Summit

A satellite image of Pyongyang, North Korea, was mistakenly used in the opening video for the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit, which got underway Sunday. The error was discovered belatedly when local media reported on it.

P4G stands for Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, and the video preceded President Moon Jae-in's opening address.

The video's purpose was to promote the host city, and it featured panoramic views of Namsan, an ancient palace and the Han River, one by one. Then an aerial photograph of an island filled the screen. But the island was not Yeouido on the Han River -- it was Rungrado on the Taedong River in Pyongyang.

The camera then zoomed out for successive views of the Taedong River, Pyongyang and South Pyongan Province.

The image in question was abruptly replaced in the afternoon on the presidential office's YouTube channel. The correct image shows the Han River, with the camera zooming out to show Seoul and South Korea.

People posted critical comments below related news articles, such as "Does P in the P4G stand for Pyongyang?" Others asked, "I wonder if this is intentional" and "If a private company prepared the presentation, members of the team in charge would have checked it many times beforehand. What were Cheong Wa Dae's officials doing?"

The two-day event was a major global summit on climate and sustainable growth. The presidential office and the government prepared for the summit with close interest.

Cheong Wa Dae promoted the summit aggressively. On Thursday, Moon appeared in a special promotional video. On Friday, when he went back to his official residence after work, he personally drove a hydrogen-fueled car with P4G slogans all over it.

Tak Hyun-min, Moon's protocol secretary, also played up the event. Appearing on a TBS radio program on Friday, he said no other international conference hosted by South Korea had attracted as many countries as this one.

Until the news reports came out, the presidential office did not know an image of Pyongyang had been used in the video. It was not involved in producing the video, it explained later. A Cheong Wa Dae official told a local newspaper that the P4G planning group, under the Foreign Ministry, had outsourced the project to a private company.

Foreign leaders and heads of international organizations participated in the summit online and offline. Showing an image of Pyongyang for such a big event is a protocol disaster and a source of humiliation for South Korea. Yet Cheong Wa Dae tried to deflect criticism by blaming a contractor. This was an irresponsible response from the presidential office.

This sort of video usually goes through many rounds of editing after being outsourced by the government. A government agency requests proposals from video production companies. They give presentations in front of the officials in charge. The selected company makes a preliminary video for the agency, then discusses it with working-level officials and modifies it. This step is repeated until the agency approves the final version.

The head of the agency may not know what exactly is in the final version, but normally at least the manager of the working-level officials has reviewed it in detail.

Organizers of an important event such as this sometimes hold rehearsals as well. Working-level officials must have watched the video in question. It is hard to understand why none of them noticed the mistake when they checked different versions of the video, or during P4G rehearsals.

Cheong Wa Dae, under President Moon, has been criticized by some on the right for being pro-North Korea. In this context, this was not a trivial blunder. The presidential office shifts responsibility to an external video producer and tries to dismiss the error as nothing serious. This attitude invites more suspicions, such as whether the substitution of Pyongyang for Seoul was intentional. Cheong Wa Dae needs to clarify the suspicions quickly. Tak looks suitable for the job.

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