South Korea again bars Greenpeace staff from country to silence nuclear critics

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Feature story - October 8, 2012
Greenpeace International nuclear campaigners have again been denied entry to South Korea, making it crystal clear the government in Seoul is trying to silence nuclear critics.

Governments are clearly listening to the nuclear industry with very little regard to openness and free speech. Last week India also refused entry to two Japanese anti-nuclear activists.

The lack of transparency and close links to governments are indicative of the nuclear industry. Greenpeace Africa recently submitted numerous requests for information to various nuclear bodies.

It is our responsibility to ensure that we have the right to know and that the secrecy within the nuclear sector be exposed.

Jan Beranek, Greenpeace International energy team lead, and Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, were stopped at Seoul's Incheon airport today and not allowed into the country, where they were due to present at a seminar on nuclear power and meet journalists.

Both of them had been allowed into South Korea in the past and no official reasons were given for today’s denial of access. In total, six staff from Greenpeace International and Greenpeace East Asia have been denied access to South Korea since last November.

Beranek is a long-time critic of nuclear power, while Teule is an expert on the risks of radiation and contamination. She has overseen several operations near the Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan to independently measure and sample radiation contamination.

“By not allowing us into the country to share our information on the Fukushima disaster and nuclear risks in other places, the South Korean government is making it crystal clear that it is targeting voices critical of nuclear power and silencing opposition to its nuclear plans,” said Beranek.

“The South Korean government has again tarnished its image as a democracy by silencing nuclear opposition," said Teule. “Once again, we see that nuclear power and democracy don't mix.”

The denial of access comes just days after two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors at separate South Korean plants were shut down for systems malfunctions. The shutdowns sparked demands for a safety review.

“The refusal to allow Greenpeace nuclear experts to attend and present at an anti-nuclear meeting raises the question: What is the South Korean government trying to hide from the Korean public about its nuclear program,” said Pino Lee, nuclear campaigner in Korea with Greenpeace East Asia.

In April, Greenpeace East Asia released a renewable energy scenario for Korea, the Energy [R]evolution, that shows how Korea can phase out nuclear energy by 2030, while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs and saving $4 billion US a year in investment and fuel costs.

Last year, media reported that South Korea would spend USD9 million to counter the work of Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations.