The South Korean government is tightening security ahead of next week’s summit of the Group of 20 leading world economies. But members of South Korean civic and labor organizations say the security measures will not stop them from demonstrating against what they call the unfair economic policies of the G20. And they say they can not guarantee that protests will remain peaceful.
South Korean authorities do not want a repeat of what happened during June’s G20 summit in Toronto. There, demonstrators broke the windows of businesses and burned police cars. Hundreds were arrested for instigating violence.
For the G20 summit next week, Seoul has banned protests near around the summit venues and will dispatch 20,000 police officers to patrol the area. The government also denied visas to some foreign anti-globalization activists.
But an umbrella group representing 80 Korean organizations that oppose the G20’s economic policies says it will protest in the days ahead of and during the summit.
At a news conference in Seoul Friday, representatives of the group say that South Korea’s security measures are undemocratic and threaten their freedom of speech.
Kim Young-hoon, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said that because of Seoul’s security crackdown, he can not guarantee that protests will not turn violent.
“That if the rights of workers and the ordinary people like freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, if these rights and if these freedoms are guaranteed and if it ensures our voices are properly delivered to the general public, that will be the only solution to preventing any kind of violent actions,” Kim said.
Protests involving Korean trade unions have in the past turned violent, as have past anti-free trade rallies in South Korea.
South Korean riot police faced criticism for using water cannons on demonstrators in the past.
Kim says that if such tactics are employed during the G20 summit, the government should be held responsible for what happens.
“Excessive use of force to crack down on demonstrations and rallies, to crack down and oppress our rights, will induce or provoke the demonstrations to become violent, that, nobody wants,” Kim said.
Critics of the G20 say policies the leaders adopt over trade and economic planning harm workers and the poor. In South Korea, many unions fear greater trade liberalizations or a stronger currency will cost them jobs. South Korean farmers say that allowing more imported food will put them out of business.
The civic and labor groups will hold their first anti-G20 protest on Sunday and another on the opening day of the summit on November 11.