Female activists march along the DMZ in Paju
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) overturned its decision to deny entry to a peace activist visiting South Korea to protest the THAAD deployment on July 18 after criticism over the move.
Christine Ahn, a Korean-American involved in the peace movement, initially planned to arrive in South Korea for a five-day visit on July 24 as part of a US citizen peace delegation demanding the THAAD deployment’s reversal. Her schedule involved visiting the THAAD battery’s location in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, and attending one of the regular Wednesday demonstrations for a resolution to the comfort women issue. Ahn was also slated for a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha.
But while booking plane tickets with a domestic travel agency on July 13, Ahn learned that the South Korean government had placed her on a list of people subject to travel bans.
An investigation by the Hankyoreh confirmed that the decision to ban entry to Ahn was made at the NIS’s request.
“It is true that the NIS submitted an opinion [on Ahn’s travel ban]. But [the decision to refuse her entry] is a Ministry of Justice matter,” the office of the NIS spokesperson told the Hankyoreh in a July 17 telephone conversation.
A Ministry of Justice source said the measure was taken in accordance with travel ban provisions in the Immigration Control Act, describing Ahn “someone who presents significant grounds for recognizing concerns that she may engage in activities detrimental to the Republic of Korea’s interests and public safety.”
The source also said the “handling of the entry refusal is a matter for the authority of the Justice Minister, who oversees the Office of Immigration,” while adding that “denials of entry are mostly at the request of administrative institutions.” The account suggested the NIS’s opinion was a strong factor in the denial of entry to Ahn.
The travel ban on Ahn appears to step from her participation in the Women Cross event in South Korea in May 2015. At the time, Gloria Steinem and other noted female peace activists from around the world organized the Women Cross DMZ event, which involved traveling from North Korea to South Korea by way of the Demilitarized Zone. Ahn ended up being accused of allegiance to Pyongyang after North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun reported that she had “praised Kim Il-sung during a visit to Mangyongdae.”
“A Rodong Sinmun reporter asked me what I thought about Kim Il-sung, and I replied that I was aware he had fought against Japan,” Ahn later explained. “They twisted my words and used them for political propaganda.”
The South Korean government ultimately decided to allow Ahn entry as South Korean women’s right advocates and others called for the ban’s lifting and the issue began receiving press coverage, including a July 17 report in the New York Times.
“As there has been a request for [the measure’s] lifting by the institution that requested [the ban], the entry ban for Christine Ahn has been lifted,” a Ministry of Justice source said on July 18.
By Kim Tae-gyu, staff reporter
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