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Anger in South Korea as Philippines' Duterte attends birthday party

By
Elizabeth Shim
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is being criticized by South Koreans after he was seen attending the birthday celebration of national police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. Photo by Mark R. Cristino/European Press Agency
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is being criticized by South Koreans after he was seen attending the birthday celebration of national police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. Photo by Mark R. Cristino/European Press Agency

Anger is growing in South Korea after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attended the birthday party of the national police chief ultimately responsible for the murder of a Korean businessman.

On Sunday, Duterte celebrated Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa's 55th birthday and defended his aide at a location close to where Jee Ick-joo, 53, was strangled to death with packaging tape, Philippine newspaper The Inquirer reported.

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"He stays there. Bato has my complete trust," the Philippine president said on television, adding the police officers who kidnapped Jee from his home in suburban Manila in October would be prosecuted.

Others in attendance included Philippine House Speaker Pantaleon Álvarez, who had previously asked for Dela Rosa's resignation.

During his birthday celebration, the police chief said that his only wish was the corrupt personnel in the department change their current behavior. When they do change their ways, then he can resign, Dela Rosa said, according to local Philippine media.

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South Koreans are expressing their indignation in response to Duterte's attendance at the birthday gathering, describing the move as "insensitive conduct," according to Yonhap news agency.

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Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay met with South Korea's top envoy to Manila last Tuesday, and exchanged a phone call with Seoul's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, expressing regret and reporting an investigation is under way.

But little progress has been made, Yonhap reported.

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South Korea's National Human Rights Commission said on Monday Seoul and the international community must actively respond to the violations that took place under police supervision.

"These incidents are a serious matter that violates the principle of rule of law which the United Nations has emphasized...They ignore and infringe upon human rights," the South Korean government agency stated.

Jee was strangled by a Philippine anti-narcotics representative, Ricky Santa Isabel, according to the country's justice department.

Isabel and other officers searched Jee's home for drugs but intended to extort money from his family, The New York Times reported.

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