Greenpeace Seoul director denied entry for nearly one year
Director Damato denied entry for nearly 1 year
By Kim Se-jeong
Feb. 22, 2013
Mario Damato Chief of Greenpeace Seoul office
Greenpeace Seoul has been operating without its director, Mario Damato, who has been denied entry since April last year.
The Korean authorities have banned him from entering the country without thorough explanation, just calling him “a potential threat” to the nation’s interest. They claim the entry ban is based on the Immigration Control Law.
On April 2, 2012, Damato was stopped by an immigration officer at Incheon International Airport.
He and two colleagues were taken away by policemen. Then, they “were marched to a (police) holding room, and from there marched again to the exit gate, with a policeman in front and one behind,” Damato wrote in an email to The Korea Times on Monday. “And our passports were handed to the airline staff to take us back to Hong Kong,” where he is currently staying.
Almost 10 months have passed, and it looks as if he won’t be allowed in anytime soon.
“The justice minister decided on the ban at the request of ‘related-organizations,’” said an official at the Border Control Division of the Ministry of Justice who refused to disclose his name.
He added as long as the unidentified organizations’ requests persist, the ban will stay in place. He declined to elaborate on which organizations made the requests.
According to the Immigration Control Law, “A person about who there are reasonable grounds for concern that she/he may commit act detrimental to the interest of Korea, the public safety, the economic, social order or good morals” can be rejected entry.
As a global non-governmental environmental organization, Greenpeace has kept a watchful eye on the threat of nuclear powers, advocating for the phasing-out of nuclear power plants worldwide.
Since its establishment in October 2011, Greenpeace Korea has staged anti-nuclear power campaigns outside a nuclear plant in Yeonggwang, South Jeolla Province, in Busan and Gwanghwamun, Seoul.
In a recent policy recommendation, it suggested the Korean government shut down all nuclear power plants by 2030 by increasing investment in renewable energy sources and enhancing energy efficiency.
This runs contrary to Korea’s interest that sees the nuclear energy industry as a future engine for economic growth. Korea secured a deal in 2009 to build a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates, one of the feats by the outgoing President Lee Myung-bak administration.
The Korean authorities’ blocking of Damato’s entry will likely cause criticism of the Korean government for suppressing opposing voices.
“This is a matter of human rights — oppressing freedom of speech,” said Lee Hee-song, a senior climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Seoul.
Damato has demanded to be allowed in. “I have done nothing wrong and see no reason for being stopped from visiting Korea.”
Lee also raised the issue of communication. While Damato was being deported at the airport, his demands for an explanation went unanswered.
“We’ve written letters, made phone calls, sent faxes (requesting explanations on Damato’s refused entry), but they have remained silent,” said Lee.
The local Greenpeace office filed a civil lawsuit with a Seoul court against the Korean government on Dec. 10 last year — the International Day of Human Rights.
to seek our leader’s success at the same time we strengthen the chance of our own success.
That partnership can’t be more important than now when we, together with our leader, have to tackle a number of difficult challenges. That’s why, in our 10th essay, we wish our leader as well as ourselves “Oh happy day.” Happiness is also the main goal of the Park Geun-hye government.