Through the lawsuit, lodged on Monday on international Human Rights Day, Greenpeace is seeking compensation of almost 70 million Korean won for disruption of six staff members' ability to conduct their campaign about the risks of nuclear energy and for other damages.
Greenpeace is also seeking recognition that the denial of entry of its staff was an attack on freedom of expression and a violation of international human rights.
"Following the Fukushima disaster, the South Korean government is trying to silence us for highlighting the tremendous risks nuclear power poses. It refuses to hear criticism of its nuclear programme and actively attacks those attempting to inform the public," said Pino Lee, nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia, based in Seoul.
"This illustrates the dangerous influence the nuclear industry has on Korea's political system, and represents a violation of the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Korean government has acceded to."
Since establishing an office in South Korea in June 2011, the government has denied entry to four Greenpeace East Asia staff without justification. In addition, two Greenpeace International staff members have been prohibited from entering South Korea.
Coupled with the South Korean government's crackdown on domestic anti-nuclear groups and a 10 billion won (US$9 million) investment in a pro-nuclear advertising campaign, Greenpeace says the prohibition of entry is clearly aimed at shutting down criticism of the country’s dangerous nuclear expansion programme.
As South Korea was recently elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Greenpeace is demanding that it listen to concerns by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, uphold its commitment to respect the promotion and protection of human rights and cease its attempts to silence NGOs speaking out on issues of national importance.
"By unjustly prohibiting Greenpeace staff from entering Korea without reason, the government has created a chilling effect among those who wish to voice their concerns about nuclear power," said Lee.
"The quality of South Korea's democracy is under threat, as is the health of our people, our environment and our economy. Renewable energy is the only truly clean and safe way forward and Greenpeace will not allow those who support clean energy rather than nuclear power to be silenced."
Greenpeace organisations do not accept donations from governments or corporations but rely on contributions from individual supporters and foundation grants. www.greenpeace.org/korea
Youn Hwang, Greenpeace Seoul Office Communications Officer
+82 10 4089 6980, +82 2 3144 1996
Greg McNevin, Greenpeace International Communications
gr, +82 2 3144 1995
Greenpeace International Press Desk Hotline, Amsterdam +31 20 7182470
1) Text of Greenpeace's complaint to the Korean Government: http://bit.ly/TUdHM7
2) Greenpeace staff prohibited entry to South Korea:
1. Jan Beranek, Greenpeace International energy team leader, 8 October 2012
2. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, 8 October 2012
3. Gavin Edwards, seconded to Greenpeace East Asia as climate and energy manager for the Seoul office, 20 April 2012
4. Dr. Mario Damato, Executive Director of Greenpeace East Asia, 2 April 2012
5. Fung Ka Keung, organisational support and regional development director, Greenpeace East Asia, November 2011 and April 2012
6. Rashid Kang, organisational development manager for Seoul office, Greenpeace East Asia, November 2011 and April 2012
3) "According to local news media, the Korea Nuclear Energy Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Knowledge Economy will seek to set aside 10 billion won ($9.3 million) next year to beef up the publicity of nuclear energy safety." http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110819000786
4) Lessons from Fukushima report including executive summary: http://bit.ly/JbUAWz
5) In 2010, South Korea was criticised for its record of protecting free expression by Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, saying: "I am concerned that in recent years, there has been a shrinking space for freedom of expression in the Republic of Korea [..]. For the Republic of Korea to be a leader internationally, it must not only show the world its economic and technological prowess, but also its commitment to a truly democratic model of governance with full respect for human rights." http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/opinion/docs/ROK-Pressstatement17052010.pdf