July 27, 2011 09:41
President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday told his government to ban a group of rightwing Japanese lawmakers from Korea. The parliamentarians, of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, want to visit Ulleung Island near Dokdo early next month in a bid to draw attention to Japan's dubious territorial claim to the islets.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, Minister of Special Affairs Lee Jae-oh, and Chun Young-woo, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, at Cheong Wa Dae, Lee told them to send an official letter to Tokyo to the effect that the Japanese lawmakers should not enter Korea because Seoul cannot guarantee their safety.
Lee also instructed the government to turn them back at the airport if they attempt to enter the country despite the warning, a government source said.
Lee's decision comes after ruling Grand National Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo called for a ban. In a session of the GNP Supreme Council on Monday, Hong said, "The Justice Ministry should ban their entry because they're coming to deny Korea's constitutional order."
Lee Jae-oh also stressed the need to ban them.
Any sovereign country can refuse entry to any foreigners if it wishes to do so, and Korea's Immigration Law stipulates that the justice minister is authorized to refuse entry to any foreigner who he fears is likely to hurt Korea's national interest or disturb the peace.
Lee is reportedly angry that Japanese lawmakers are launching these provocations even though Korea has made efforts to develop friendly relations with Japan, including extending a helping hand after the massive earthquake and tsunami there on March 11.
"The most rational solution would be for the Japanese lawmakers to decide themselves not to come," a Foreign Ministry official said. "So we've warned the Japanese government and parliament several times that unfortunate accidents could occur if they insist on coming here anyway."
But not even Foreign Ministry officials had not expected Lee to take such a tough stance, which some observers said could cause a backlash from Japanese politicians.
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