Succession of entry denial against foreign environment activists in Korea

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <Hankyoreh> on April 25, 2013, reporting Korean government’s continued and seemingly targeted entry denial against foreign activists. All rights regarding this post stay with the author(s) of the original article or with <Hankyoreh> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institution(s) / position(s) to authentic one(s) as much as possible but, unfortunately, some of them still can be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link at the bottom.


Succession of entry denial against foreign environment activists

‘Your call for peace and life’, not in Korea?

‘No naval base in Jeju’ activist Emily Wang

Japanese anti-nuke activist Hideyuki Ban

Bewildered at sudden notification at airport

Six Greenpeace activists banned last year for nothing

“Any black list?” suspicion swells

Foreign environment activists continue to be turned back at Korean airport one after another. Things reminding Greenpeace activists being banned from entering Korea last year still go on in Ms. Geun-hye Park’s government. Political spheres and civil society suspect if government keeps a ‘blacklist’ for foreigners.

Emily Wang (27), a Taiwanese environment activist, was not allowed to enter Korea at Incheon International Airport in April 24th evening. Emily has been acting against Jeju Naval base construction at Gangjeong village, Jeju, since June 2011. But Ministry of Law (MOL) did not even explain the reason for entry denial to her properly. Lawyer Shin-ok Baek,  Lawyers for Democratic Society (LDS), said an official from immigration office in the airport simply notified to her that “We ban your entry on the ground of Immigration Control Law Article 11 Paragraph 1 Item 3 & 4.”

Immigration Control Law Article 11 Paragraph 1 Item 3 & 4 declare that Korean government can ban a foreigner from entering Korea if ‘it has substantial reason to believe that the person can act to damage interest of Korea or public safety’ or ‘it has substantial reason to believe that the person can act to damage economic order or social order or virtuous customs of Korea‘.

Emily Wang still stays at Incheon International Airport waiting room now on April 25th. She said, in a phone call with <Hankyoreh>, “I was a little concerned (that I might have a hard time to enter Korea) since I stayed in Gangjeong village for a long time. But I never thought this kind of thing could happen because I have a proper visa and never did anything illegal anywhere. It’s really sad and disheartening.”

Prior to this, Hideyuki Ban (61), the joint leader of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) the Japanese representative anti-nuclear movement organization, was denied entry by MOL at Incheon International Airport in April 19th evening. Though other four companions were allowed to enter, only Hideyuki Ban was turned back to Japn in April 20th early morning. He was supposed to receive Koybo environment grand prize that Education and Culture Foundation of Kyobo Life Insurance Co. would present to CNIC on April 22nd as its representative.

It is known that Hideyuki Ban requested explanation of MOL’s rejection of entry decision against him all night long but failed. An official of Education and Culture Foundation of Kyobo Life Insurance Co. who knows him very well said “CNIC just promotes public awareness on nuclear risk in subway stations or on streets. It does not do any direct action as Greenpeace does. I can’t imagine why he was not allowed to enter.” It was in April 2011 when Hideyuki Ban stepped on Korean soil last time. At that time, he gave a lecture titled ‘Truth and lesson of Fukushima nuclear accident’ to members of National Assembly.

Ban on foreign environment activists continues since last year. Six Greenpeace activists including Mario Damato, Executive Director of Greenpeace East Asia, were not allowed to enter Korea last year. Members of ‘Save the Dugong’ organization including Umisedo Yutaka who intended to attend World Conservation Congress in September last year were also denied entry.

Korean government’s rampant entry denial seems to turn into an international matter. In a recent interview with <Hankyoreh>, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace, said  “We will bring this matter to United Nations Human Rights Commission if Korean Minister of Law does not provide any reasonable explanation to us.” At the end of last year, Greenpeace, arguing that “Korean government inflicted damages by denying our members’ entry and preventing them to join events”, filed a damage compensation lawsuit against Korean government at Seoul Regional Court, Korea.

On April 25th, ‘Cooperation for society without nuclear’ released a statement that “Modes of action that tried to muzzle the voice of those who sounded different from national agenda as much as possible during military regime are repeated in 21st century. Geun-hye Park government should not restep the errs that former military regime and president Myung-bak Lee did.” Rep. Ha-na Jang, Unified Democratic Party, said “MOL denies entry even to foreign activists without any criminal records. I suspect if it keeps a blacklist against foreigners.”

MOL claimed that their actions were legitimate. An MOL official said “We denied entry (of Hideyuki Ban and Emily Wang) on the comprehensive ground of Immigration Control Law Article 11 Paragraph 1 Item 3 & 4. There were requests from other (government) offices. They will be allowed to enter if heads of those offices ask us to lift the ban on them.” But it rejected our request to disclose those offices that asked their ban on entry.

Reporters Jae-hyun Hur, Won-cheol Kim, Jeong-soo Kim 허재현 김원철 기자, 김정수 선임기자



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