SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Korea Bizwire) — Police have refused to accept the state human rights watchdog’s recommendation that a one-man protest be allowed right in front of the United States Embassy in downtown Seoul, officials said Tuesday.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said it has been notified by Seoul police of a decision to retain the current ban on demonstrations just outside the U.S. Embassy compound.
Last month, the commission urged the chief of Seoul’s Jongno Police Station, which is in charge of the U.S. Embassy’s external security, to permit one-man protests right in front of the embassy, arguing that the ban is a violation of freedom of expression.
The watchdog agency made the recommendation after lone protesters against the local deployment of an American anti-missile defense system were asked by Jongno police officers to hold their pickets about 15 meters away from the U.S. Embassy’s entrance gate.
In the recommendation, the human rights commission insisted that one-man protests are not expected to impair the well-being and dignity of diplomatic areas or diplomats and that free selection of a place of protest is an important part of freedom of expression. It also stressed that one-man protests should be fully guaranteed as long as they don’t obstruct pedestrians on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Embassy.
But Jongno Police Station has rejected the recommendation, citing the need to protect the well-being and functions of a foreign mission, the special nature of international relations and citizens’ right of passage.
Instead, the police station told the watchdog that it will continue to permit one-man protests at adjacent buildings and the nearby square, from where messages can be adequately delivered to the U.S. Embassy.