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Greenpeace sues after staff denied entry

Government accused of gagging nuclear critics

Greenpeace sues after staff denied entry
Greenpeace Korea staff submit a petition to Seoul Central District Court (courtesy of Greenpeace Korea)
Stephen Hong, Seoul

December 11, 2012

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Greenpeace yesterday filed a legal challenge against the government over what it called attempts to prevent anti-nuclear criticism after six activists were banned from entering the country.

Filed on international Human Rights Day, the lawsuit calls for 70 million won (US$65,000) in compensation and recognition that the decision to bar staff represented an attack on freedom of expression and human rights.

“This damages the country’s democracy, threatens the environment and ignores the current movement in the world to convert nuclear power generation into renewable energy production,” said Lee Hee-song, head of climate and energy campaigns at Greenpeace Korea.

Since establishing an office in Seoul in June 2011 to protest South Korea’s nuclear policy, authorities have refused entry to six of the environmental group’s staff without explanation – four Greenpeace East Asia staff in April and two from Greenpeace International in October.

A Ministry of Justice official who declined to be named said today that the government would review the appeal, without saying why the activists had been refused entry.

Despite calls by Greenpeace and other activists for South Korea to halt its nuclear program in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown last year following the Japanese tsunami, the government has indicated it will expand its nuclear program with up to eight new reactors.

South Korea currently has 23 nuclear reactors for power generation – five of which are currently offline – contributing 30 percent of the country’s electricity.

The government has spent $9m on a pro-nuclear advertising campaign while cracking down on domestic anti-nuclear activists.

Baek Ga-yoon, of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, said the government has also denied entry to some 25 foreign activists against a controversial naval base on Jeju Island in a move designed “to block criticism against its anti-environmental policy.”

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