Pro-Bangladesh South Korean Journalist Barred from Entering Bangladesh

Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, South Korean journalist, Bangladesh, Bangladesh Armed Forces, UN Peace Mission, Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh Embassy

In a surprising move, the Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul has denied a visa to Joseph Joh, a prominent South Korean journalist and Managing Editor of the influential media outlet The Seoul Times. Known for his pro-Bangladesh stance, Joh’s planned visit aimed at exploring the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh’s economic achievements, and potential areas for South Korean investment, has been abruptly halted without clear justification, raising concerns over diplomatic and media relations between the two countries.

Joseph Joh, a veteran journalist highly regarded within the South Korean journalist community, intended to visit Bangladesh from July 9 to 13. His goal was to learn about the Rohingya issue, the commendable role of the Bangladesh Armed Forces in the UN Peace Mission, Bangladesh’s tremendous economic progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and potential sectors for South Korean investment in the country. Additionally, Mr. Joh sought to explore the possibility of student exchanges between colleges and universities in Bangladesh and South Korea.

According to a report published in The Seoul Times, “The Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul threatened to deny a visa to the local Korean journalist on June 27, 2024”, as revealed by Joseph Joh, the publisher of The Seoul Times.

The report further states that on June 25, 2024, when Joseph Joh visited the Bangladesh Embassy for the second time with a copy of the required invitation letter, visa payment, passport, and a confirmed airline ticket, An Ji-Yoon (Jane An), the secretary to the ambassador, informed him that Mispe Soren, the Second Secretary and Head of Chancery, had notified her that Joh’s visa application “would be denied for no particular reason”.

Hearing this, Joseph Joh expressed his utter dismay and repeatedly tried to reach Mispe Soren by phone.

Tremendously shocked and surprised by the Bangladesh Embassy’s rude behavior towards a senior journalist, Joseph Joh later told Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury over the phone, “In my very long journalistic career, I have never experienced such rudeness and hostility from any embassy in South Korea”.

In an email to Blitz editor, Joseph Joh wrote: “She [Mispe Soren] ignored as many as 13 visa-related messages I sent to her cell phone. She never answered the only one call I made, never return my call. On my second visit to the embassy yesterday [June 27, 2024] her Korean and Bangladesh staff were trying to help me with visa. One Korean male staff went upstairs with my passport to get the approval. I waited long on the ground floor, expecting to get the visa on my second visit. But something went wrong. He came down to me with worried looks. He told me that visa can take many more days. But what shocked me was that my visa can be denied. I immediately asked him “Why?” What is the reason? Am I terrorist? Or dangerous dangerous person or personal non grata? He has no answer. I asked him again who said my visa can be denied? He said Ms. Soren!”

It may be mentioned that Joseph Joh began his journalistic career in 1988 with the Korea Herald, a major English-language daily. In 1997, he moved to the mass-circulated vernacular daily DongA Ilbo, working at the International News Desk. In 2000, he established The Seoul Times, which has become a well-known news portal among diplomats, politicians, civil-military bureaucrats, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, and key executives in large business conglomerates in South Korea.

Joseph Joh graduated from Dongguk University and Yonsei University, majoring in English and Political Science, respectively. Under a government scholarship, he studied at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 1993 and 1995, earning a master’s degree in journalism.

Commenting on this troubling incident, Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury stated, “This unjust denial of a visa to Joseph Joh will undoubtedly cast a dark shadow over Bangladesh’s reputation within the South Korean media community. Joseph Joh and his newspaper have been steadfast supporters of Bangladesh for decades, vigorously promoting the country’s achievements and the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“It is deeply concerning to witness such unprofessional and hostile behavior from the Bangladesh Embassy towards a respected journalist. Authorities in Dhaka must urgently investigate this matter, hold those responsible accountable, and ensure that diplomatic relations and journalistic freedoms are upheld. The immediate withdrawal and replacement of Mispe Soren with a more competent and respectful official is necessary to prevent further diplomatic fallout and restore Bangladesh’s image”.

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