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KOREA BLACKLISTS ANTI-POVERTY CAMPAIGNERS PRIOR TO G20 CIVIL SOCIETY REACTION

By Leonard Ackon
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Seoul 07 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 six activists from the Philippines were detained and then turned back by immigration officials at Seoul Incheon Airport over the weekend. They include Paul Quintosof think tank IBON Int'l, Maria Lorena Macabuag (Migrant Forum Asia), Josua Mata (Alliance of Progressive Labor), Joseph Purugganan (Focus on the Global South), artist Jess Santiag and Rogelio Soluta (May First Labour Movement).

“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.”

Just three weeks ago, it was a very different story. 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.

“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.

Other campaigners -from environmental, peasants, women's and worker organisations – including Indonesians Henry Saragh and Bernadinus Steni, Nepali Umesh Upadhayaya and Pakistani Khaliq Bushra– were denied visas, without grounds, to travel to Korea during this period.