South Korea is planning a massive security screen to protect world leaders during next month’s G20 summit in Seoul.
A record 50,000 police will be on duty to guard against possible threats from North Korea, international terrorists and anti-globalization demonstrators.
South Korea this year is hosting a series of meetings by the Group of 20 leading advanced and emerging economies that will culminate in a gathering on November 11-12 to be attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama and leaders from other members including China, Germany, Japan, France, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil.
The event carries great prestige in South Korea, which will be the first non-Group of Seven country as well as the first nation in Asia to host a G20 summit. The group has become the leading forum for steering the global economy since the outbreak of the world financial crisis in 2008, supplanting the G7.
Cho Hyun-oh, commissioner general of the Korea National Police Agency, said today that the Seoul summit is expected to draw 32 heads of state and leaders of international organisations as well as 10,000 total participants.
“Violent riots that have become common practice at large-scale international events are expected to take place during this summit as well,” he said. “Recently, international terrorism is on the rise and risks related to North Korea still remain.”
He said that his agency was working with South Korea’s military, Interpol and foreign intelligence services to ensure that world leaders will be protected and the summit will be successfully carried out.
Separately, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the country’s military will also go on high alert to cope with any possible provocations by North Korea and terrorist groups.
Mr Cho said that as the event approaches, nationwide police forces will gradually go “on high alert and 50,000 police officers will be mobilised, which is the largest ever.”
He referred to previous anti-globalization protests that were disrupted by demonstrators, such as a World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in 1999 and an International Monetary Fund gathering in Prague the following year.
Mr Cho also mentioned a summit of south-east Asian nations and other regional countries last year in Thailand that was cancelled due to violence carried out by local anti-government protesters, and some previous G20 summits.
To help ensure law and order, Cho said that the South Korean government has plans to enact a special law to limit protests and stop foreigners who have records of “radical, violent protesting” from coming into the country.
Mr Cho said that North Korea’s record of engaging in terrorism in the past means authorities must pay special attention.
He cited the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, a bomb attack on South Korean Cabinet ministers visiting Burma in 1983 which narrowly missed President Chun Doo-hwan and the bombing of a Korean Air jet in 1987 ahead of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.
“We must always be aware of the situation in North Korea and we must be on guard against it,” he said, adding that police were working with South Korea’s military and foreign intelligence.