Deported Peace Activists J. Rhee and H. Lee at South Korea airport. (credit Min Plus)
Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea | July 27, 2016 Originally published in ZoomInKorea
Two Korean American peace activists – Juyeon Rhee and Hyun Lee – had planned to be part of a peace tour as representatives of the U.S.-based Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea but were denied entry into South Korea by its government on July 25. The following is a statement released by the Solidarity Committee:
On July 26, 2016, the South Korean government blocked the entry of two Korean American peace activists, Juyeon Rhee and Hyun Lee, into South Korea. The two are representatives of the U.S.-based Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea. They had traveled to South Korea to participate in the annual Jeju Peace March as well as join protests against the recent U.S.-South Korean decision to deploy the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.
After being detained by immigration officers at Incheon International Airport, Rhee and Lee were deported pursuant to Articles 11 and 12 of the Korea Immigration Control Act, which prohibits the entry of foreigners who, among other things, are “deemed likely to commit any act detrimental to national interests of the Republic of Korea or public safety.”
Rhee and Lee had traveled to South Korea numerous times in the past and encountered no barrier to entry. They have never broken any laws in South Korea, much less been deported in the past.
The denial of their entry can only be seen as an attempt by the Park Geun-hye administration to block peace activists from internationalizing the growing opposition in South Korea against THAAD deployment. Since announcing its decision to collaborate with the U.S. military to deploy the missile system in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, the government has waged an aggressive campaign to crack down on all those who oppose the government’s decision. President Park recently referred to those voicing opposition, many of whom are ordinary Seongju residents, as “subversive forces” and declared, “It’s important to block subversive forces from all affairs, and we must be thorough in weeding them out.”
The rushed decision by the South Korean and U.S. governments to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea was undemocratic with no input from South Korean citizens. Yet the burden of producing and operating the THAAD system will ultimately be borne by U.S. and South Korean taxpayers. The cost of the system is estimated at $1.3 billion, and the average annual operating and sustainment costs amount to $200 million. Many fear that long-term exposure to high frequency electromagnetic waves emitted by the THAAD radar and noise caused by its engines will be detrimental to the health of Seongju residents who live near the designated site. The THAAD system has been deemed by experts to be ineffective in the defense of South Korea. Its deployment is a provocative move against North Korea, China, and Russia and will redraw Cold War lines as well as escalate tensions in a region already heavily militarized with weapons of mass destruction.
The South Korean government’s action of refusing entry to peace activists shows the degree to which it has devolved into a police state under the Park Geun-hye administration and deems international solidarity to be a threat to its policy of military confrontation and escalation. Indeed, only the strength of international solidarity between citizens of the United States and South Korea can stop the two governments’ provocative action towards increased militarization. The Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea is resolved to redouble its efforts of solidarity with the people of South Korea fighting for democracy and peace and call on all those who stand on the side of justice to join the opposition against the dangerous U.S. move to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
The Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea is a U.S. based group of progressive individuals who support efforts for democracy and peace in Korea. The Committee publishes a blog, ZoominKorea.