It was unnecessary and excessive for the immigration authorities to bar the entry of three Greenpeace staff at Incheon International Airport on Monday and send them back to Hong Kong. An Immigration Service officer said the three members of a four-man group were detained at the airport at the request of a relevant government office which cited “national interest reasons.”
The Greenpeace group consisted of Kumi Naidoo, international executive director; Mario Damato, East Asia executive director; Fung Ka Keung, regional development director for East Asia; and Rashid Kang, manager for Greenpeace Seoul. Of them, only Naidoo was allowed into Seoul, where he met Mayor Park Won-soon on the day of arrival.
It is hard to understand why the leader of the group was allowed to pass the gate but his companions were kept at the airport. If the authorities found reason that the group caused concerns for Korea’s national interest and peace, as defined in Article 14 of the Immigration Law, the ban should have been applied to all of them.
The explanation that Naidoo was allowed entry because of his prior appointments with the Seoul mayor and Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil is not acceptable. Before their arrival, Greenpeace had made it known that the group was coming to Korea as part of its anti-nuclear campaign. We see little difference between the numbers of one and four and doubt that four men can pose any more significant challenge to the national interest and peace here than one can.
Greenpeace opened its office in Seoul last August and its flagship Rainbow Warrior has visited Incheon Port and the coastal locations of Korea’s 21 nuclear power reactors to manifest its opposition to the nation’s 31 percent dependence on nuclear energy which will be further increased with the planned construction of 11 more reactors. It also targets Korea’s export of nuclear energy technologies.
Since the disaster at the Fukushima power station in Japan last year, global campaigns against nuclear energy have intensified. Korean immigration authorities’ entry ban on some Greenpeace members only highlighted its anti-nuclear campaign. They protested that the deportation was “disproportionate, unjustified and immoral and does not conform to the democratic values that Korea claims to espouse.”
We suspect that the government authorities might have feared the Greenpeace members could join the protesters at the naval base construction site on Jeju Island.