A Korean Wave of tear gas?

Posted on : 2014-10-14 16:34 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Use of tear gas at home was stopped by liberal president in the late 1990s, but canisters still being exported

By Choi Woo-ri, staff reporter

Millions of South Korean-made tear gas canisters are being exported to some of the world’s most strife-ridden and repressive countries, police data show.

The countries represent the new “market” for the devices after they were retired from use at rallies and demonstrations back home.

Kim Jae-yeon, a Unified Progressive Party lawmaker on the National Assembly Security and Public Administration Committee, received the export data on Oct. 13 from the Gyeongnam Provincial Police Agency, which has jurisdiction over the country’s only producer of tear gas, Daekwang Chemical Co. The figures showed D exporting 3.16 million canisters to 24 countries between 2011 and Sept. 2014.

In terms of sheer volume, the largest market was Bahrain, which imported 1,449,000 canisters. Dozens of people died in that island country when the state responded to the Arab Spring protests with intensive suppression, including the indiscriminate use of tear gas.

Another 668,000 canisters were exported to Turkey, the subject of an earlier controversy over the use of South Korean-manufactured tear gas in putting down large-scale demonstrations in 2013. Bangladesh, the site of frequent demonstrations by low-wage workers demanded unpaid wages and better working conditions, imported 186,000 canisters, while another 277,000 were exported to Myanmar, the site of repeated democratization protests in past years.

Tear gas use by police in South Korea effectively ended in 1998, when the administration of then-President Kim Dae-jung took office. Amnesty International has repeatedly urged South Korea and other countries to halt their exports of tear gas and other equipment used to put down demonstrations.

During a Security and Public Administration Committee audit the same day, the National Police Agency explained the decision to continue allowing the production and export of tear gas.

“The only determination the National Police Agency make is whether there is a danger to domestic security and public safety. The decision on exporting is made by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration,” a source said.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]


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