Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 146

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Chung-soo told reporters yesterday that Seoul has no intention of reinstating Oleg Abramkin, a Russian diplomat expelled from South Korea on July 8. Park’s remarks appeared to contradict those made by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov a day earlier. Following a meeting with Park in Manila, Primakov had announced to reporters that Seoul was prepared to allow Abramkin to return to South Korea and that the Russian diplomat would be permitted to remain there for the short period of time still remaining in his tour of duty. Primakov suggested that the South Korean decision–which would have represented a clear concession by Seoul–had allowed the two countries to put the month-old spy row behind them. He also intimated that the South Korean action constituted an indirect “apology” to Moscow over developments in the spy case. (See yesterday’s Monitor)

But Park said yesterday that, during their talks in Manila, Primakov had brought up only “the issue of allowing Abramkin to return to Seoul briefly in his capacity as a private individual to make arrangements to move his belongings.” No decision had been made on even that request, Park said. South Korean Foreign Ministry officials, meanwhile, were quoted as saying that Abramkin could not return because he remained “persona non grata” in South Korea. (UPI, July 29) Yesterday’s report suggests that the spy wrangle between Russia and South Korea remains unresolved, and that broader bilateral relations are likely to suffer until the countries can bring the case to a close.