US envoy to South Korea to leave post next week

US ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris.

SEOUL (AFP): US ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris will leave his post next week, he said Wednesday (Jan 13), after nearly two years which have seen him at the centre of controversy on several occasions.

"As has been reported, my time as Ambassador is ending," Harris tweeted.

"I'll depart post next week. Bruni & I have enjoyed our lives here in South Korea immensely."

Seoul and Washington are security allies and the US stations 28,500 troops in the country.

But their relationship has been strained in recent years by differences in their approaches to North Korea and over cost-sharing responsibilities for the US deployment under President Donald Trump.

The tweet comes just days before Joe Biden's inauguration.

The retired US Navy admiral arrived in South Korea in July 2018 and has been in the headlines several times, sometimes accused of high-handedness, with even his facial hair becoming an issue of debate.

The envoy's mother was Japanese and, with Koreans still bitterly resentful of Tokyo's 1910-45 colonisation of the peninsula, commentators claimed the moustache alluded to the fashions of imperial governors-general from the period.

Harris retorted to such accusations by saying his grooming was a matter of personal choice, and that his critics were "cherry-picking history".

The facial hair was eventually shaved off, which Harris called a "keep the 'stache or lose the mask" matter in a tweet in July, along with a video of him at a traditional Korean barber shop.

"Summer in Seoul is way too hot & humid for both," he said, adding: "#COVID guidelines matter & I'm a masked man!"

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