S Korea braces itself for G20 Summit in Seoul

20:02, November 08, 2010      

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Police officers patrol near a sculpture in front of the Coex Convention Centre, the venue of the G20 summit, in Seoul November 8, 2010. The G20 Summit will be held in Seoul on November 11-12. The venue is reflected on the sculpture. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

With a meeting of Group of 20 leading world economies just around the corner, Seoul has fully geared up for the prominent event which it considers as an opportunity to burnish its image in the eyes of the world.

Seoul appears to place grave significance on its hosting of the G20 Summit slated for Nov. 11-12, being held for the first time in Asia. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak declared that the country has a chance to serve as a "protagonist in world affairs" in an Oct. 18 nationwide radio address. Some local media hailed the Seoul Summit as an occasion to affirm the country's tremendous economic development after the 1950-53 Korean War and its increased role on the global stage.

Posters which carry the official slogan of the Seoul summit, " Shared Growth Beyond Crisis," are visible on almost every high- rise building in Seoul. Advertisements promoting the public's full cooperation for the successful hosting of the Seoul summit continuously appear on television.

Seoul has taken security issues most seriously to ensure that no disruption gets in the way of its strenuous efforts to make the G20 Summit a success. Security measures across the city, and in particular at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX), the main venue of the meeting, have been beefed up to guarantee safety of nearly 10,000 participants, including 32 heads of state and leaders of international organizations.

Airports began screening suspicious passengers with full body scanners from Oct. 1 as part of the measures. Police have already tightened security, including the creation of a special unit and surrounding the venue in southern Seoul with 2.2-meter-high protective fences.

Cho Hyun-oh, chief of the Korean National Police Agency, said last month that nationwide police forces will go on high alert and mobilize a record 50,000 officers including 20,000 riot police to thwart any possible threat to the G20 Summit.

A special law came into force last month giving police greater power to limit street demonstrations and allowing deployment of troops in public areas. Seoul forbids all protests and demonstrations within a 2-kilometer security zone of the main venue.

South Korea's armed forces have also been placed on their highest level of military preparedness for the summit.

According to local media, a total of 12.5 billion won (11.2 million won U.S. dollars) has been allotted for the budget for the G20 security force by the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. Along with the budget allocated for police and military, Seoul is spending 27.3 billion won (24.7 million U.S. dollars) in total on G20 security.

Thursday and Friday have been designated as "Car Free Days" and public transportation will be increased during the period to ease traffic congestion.

The public's views toward the South Korean government's whole endeavor for the G20 Summit are palpably divided. While some regard all the preparations as necessary, others consider some of the measures implemented by the government are excessive.

"I expect that this G20 summit will bring economic effects (to South Korea). And I think well of all promotional efforts because they can show to both inside and outside of the country that we are preparing with sincerity," said Shin Seung-hoon, a 24-year-old Seoul citizen.

"From the perspective of the government, it is reasonable to bolster security. However, the public, as I understand, thinks some measures are too much, including the installation of security fences around COEX," said Kwon Yong-joon, a 21-year-old Seoul citizen.

Source: Xinhua(by Yoojung Lee)


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