Korea Blacklists Anti-Poverty Campaigners Prior to G20

Korea deports activists ahead of G20



 Seoul 10 November 2010  As Korea prepares to roll out the red carpet for Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and other G20 leaders for the first-ever Group of Twenty meeting held outside North America or Great Britain, the Korean government has slammed the door in the face of anti-poverty campaigners travelling to Seoul to lobby for pro-poor development policies.

At least seven activists from the Philippines have been detained and then turned back by immigration officials at Seoul Incheon Airport.  They include Paul Quintos of think tank IBON Int'l, Maria Lorena Macabuang (Migrant Forum Asia), Josua Mata (Alliance of Progressive Labor), Joseph Purugganan (Focus on the Global South), artist Jess Santiago, Rogelio Soluta (May First Labour Movement) and Jose Enrique Africa (IBON Int'l). 

“The decision by the Korean government to blacklist and deport civil society activists, who have travelled to Seoul to peacefully campaign for a better world, is completely outrageous,” says Anselmo Lee of GCAP Korea. “Korean President Lee Myung-Bak has placed international development on the G20 agenda, yet he prohibits representatives of development NGOs (non-governmental organisations) from entering the country.” 

In mid-October, Korea hosted the G20 Civil Dialogue, a question-and-answer session attended by negotiators from most of the G20 countries and civil society delegates from across the globe. One of the men turned away on Saturday – Paul Quintos – was a guest of the Korean government, which flew him in for that meeting.  Mr. Quintos' organisation, IBON Int'l, frequently participates in international forum to discuss development aid, including another planned visit to Korea next year as an official participant in the 4th OECD-DAC High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.  Mr. Quintos and the others were to speak at a civil society event called the G20 Seoul International People's Conference. Empty chairs were placed on stage to represent their absence. In keynote remarks delivered in absentia, Mr. Quintos questioned the logic of Korea's security forces, which placed him on the blacklist.

 “Why is the G20 so desperate to keep us out?” Mr. Quintos asked the assembly delegates. “Because they know the people are angry. We now face severe multiple crises that directly threaten the livelihood of peoples around the world. But fighting back does not mean thrashing shop windows or wanton violence as state security forces and corporate media invariably portray people's resistance. Fighting back means struggling to build a new future.”Regarding his treatment at the airport, Mr. Quintos added “I seriously doubt whether Bill Gates or any one of the 120 business executives attending the G20 Seoul Business Summit will be treated in a similar fashion.” 

The deportation of the Filipino activists appears to be part of a coordinated Korean action to suppress voices that are critical of the G20. A number of other campaigners from environmental, peasants and women's groups from across Asia -- including Indonesians Henry Saragh and Bernadinus Steni, Nepali Umesh Upadhayaya and Pakistani Khaliq Bushra -- were denied visas, without grounds, to travel to Korea. And officials from one of South Africa's largest labour unions, COSATU, were intimidated by immigration officials, who tried to prevent them from boarding a flight to Seoul.  

“We are deeply concerned by the news that Korea's security agencies have prepared a blacklist of civil society campaigners,” says GCAP Global Council representative Michael Switow. “International media covering the G20 have a right to hear critical analysis and opposing views. This can not happen if the Korean government slams the door in the face of international visitors.”

 This is not the first time that a host government has made it difficult for international civil society representatives and the media to interact. In Toronto earlier this year, Canada segregated civil society delegates in an “alternative” media centre. And during the 2006 World Bank – IMF meetings, Singapore denied entry to several overseas campaigners. Meanwhile, in 2011, Korea will host the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Mr. Quintos' organisation, IBON International is supposed to participate in that event as a representative of Better Aid, the official partner of the forum. But that partnership is now in doubt, unless the Korean government apologises for its treatment of Mr. Quintos and the other activists. 

Photos Available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/whiteband/sets/72157625352587804/   

GCAP Korea Media Contact
JaeEun Shin
GCAP Korea
tel: 010-2352-1069, 02-2279-1725
email: jeshin(at)ngokcoc.or.kr

International Media Contact
Nehmi M. Klaassen
email: nehmi.klaassen(at)whiteband.org

PHOTO CREDIT: Bobby Diciembre