South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong expressed regret over the ”offence’’ caused to Indians by the social media post by Hyundai Pakistan on Kashmir, in a phone call to his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on Tuesday, as the social media controversy spilled over into the diplomatic space.

Chung Eui-yong’s placatory gesture comes a day after the Ambassador of South Korea to India was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs to express the government’s strong displeasure on the ”unacceptable’’ social media post by the company.

“Foreign Minister of Republic of Korea called External Affairs Minister this morning. While they discussed several issues, the RoK Foreign Minister also conveyed that they regretted the offence caused to the people and Government of India by the social media post,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement on Tuesday.

On February 5, Hyundai Pakistan’s social media handle shared a post expressing solidarity with the “Kashmiri brothers” in their “struggle for freedom”. Pakistan observes February 5 as ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ every year to show support for the separatist movement in Kashmir.

The post led to a social media backlash with twitter users in India expressing anger and some also called for a boycott of Hyundai India products.

Bagchi said that immediately after noticing the social media post on the so called Kashmir Solidarity Day by Hyundai Pakistan, India’s Ambassador in Seoul contacted the Hyundai Headquarters on January 6 and sought an explanation. The offending post was removed subsequently. “The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea was summoned by the MEA on February 7 2022. The strong displeasure of the government on the unacceptable social media post by Hyundai Pakistan was conveyed to him. It was highlighted that this matter concerned India’s territorial integrity on which there could be no compromise,” Bagchi said. The matter was also raised by Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. She pointed out that while Hyundai was doing business both in India and Pakistan, it had posted content showing solidarity with Pakistan over Kashmir. “Such posts that are challenging the sovereignty of our country should not be acceptable. It has been surprising that it has been ignored till now,” she said.

Replying to Chaturvedi, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that the matter had been taken up both with the South Korean government and Hyundai had been asked to give a more forceful and unequivocal apology.

In its second apology issued on Tuesday, Hyundai Motors conveyed its ``deep regret’’ to the people of India and clarified that it does not comment on political or religious issues. The company added that it remained strongly committed to Indian customers.

Apologies were also issued by companies including Kia, Toyota and Suzuki Motor Corporation for earlier posting similar messages on social media.

“India welcomes investments by foreign companies in various sectors. But, it is also expected that such companies or their affiliates will refrain from false and misleading comments on matters of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Bagchi said.

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