End complicity in Israeli occupation, South Korean activists tell their government

Hyundai equipment used in demolition of three homes in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, 24 November. Screenshot from video by Haitham Katib.

On 24 November 2011, Israeli occupation forces destroyed three homes in the eastern occupied Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, leaving twenty people, including six children, homeless. A  video on the action by Haitham Khatib — a still from which is above — shows that Hyundai equipment was in the demolition as Israeli soldiers stood guard.

The use of Hyundai equipment in the demolition of  Palestinian property is mentioned as an example in a new report on the Republic of Korea (South Korea’s) in Israel’s occupation, colonialism and apartheid. The publication detailing South Korea’s military, economic, academic and cultural ties with Israel was released last week by the Seoul-based Palestine Peace Solidarity @ Seoul (PPS).

PPS calls on the South Korean government to enforce an immediate ban on all products or services related to the settlements, apartheid wall or occupation; to cease government trade, research or investment promotion activities with Israel; and to immediately freeze pending agreements, especially those related to trade, investment or military matters. In addition, PPS calls on the South Korean business and academic community to halt immediately any dealings with companies and institutions related to the settlements, apartheid wall or occupation.

In a 7 September press release, Palestine Peace Solidarity @ Seoul writes that the ties between South Korea and Israel have contributed to Israel’s impunity and lack of accountability:

“Treating Israel as a normal state, as opposed to one that oppresses and denies the right to self-determination of Palestinians, sends the signal that its appalling human rights record can be tolerated. Israel must be treated for what it is, a pariah state,” said YaPing an organizer with PPS.

Among the examples cited in the report are Korea Aerospace Industries’ business ties with Elbit Systems, an Israeli company widely denounced for its role in the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank, declared illegal in 2004 by the International Court of Justice; and the supply of bulldozers to the Israeli military by Hyundai Heavy Industries that are used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, an act that constitutes a war crime under the IV Geneva Convention. Daesung Industrial Corporation, Korea’s leading energy company, imports and distributes Ahava cosmetics to the Korean market. Ahava is an Israeli settlement company that was recently accused of pillaging natural resources of the West Bank in a report by Palestinian human rights group al-Haq.

Korea’s government is currently in negotiations with Israel for a Free Trade Agreement, although a deal seems frozen for now. “Koreans will continue to oppose the free trade agreement with Israel to avoid being complicit with human rights abuses and violations of international law,” added YaPing. “Koreans have a strong sense of solidarity with Palestinians and oppose their continued oppression.” The report found that Korea’s ties with Israel violates Korea’s own constitution and norms of international law.

Among the recommendations of the report, the Korean government and business community are urged to freeze immediately all ties with Israel, particularly those that directly aid and abet violations of international law related to Israel’s settlement enterprise and the Wall.

Korean activists plan to use the research to build strategic campaigns as part of the growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Download the full report.


Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh