Settler and Accused War Criminals Visit South Korea

The last two months have seen visits by at least three high profile Israeli figures who have been invited to discuss the “creative economy” in South Korea.

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was recently in Seoul to attend the 14th World Knowledge Forum to share his knowledge on high tech start ups on October 15 – 17. It is not clear if he went into much if any detail about what percentage of these start ups are benefiting from the highly-subsidized arms industry that perpetuates Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

Olmert has been accused of war crimes after ordering the brutal Operation Cast Lead attacks on Gaza in 2008-2009 and has faced mass protests and attempted citizen’s arrests around the world for his role in the deaths of 1,389 Palestinians who died during the 22-day sustained assault the world’s largest open-air prison. Disappointingly, Olmert’s attendance did not stir up the same kind of response in South Korea.

Accused war criminal Olmert speaks with Sungkyunkwan University professor and former Samsung Electronics chief technology officer, Hwang Chang-gyu during the conference.
Accused war criminal Olmert speaks with Sungkyunkwan University professor and former Samsung Electronics chief technology officer, Hwang Chang-gyu during the conference.

While Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was on trial for fraud, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a right-wing settler who openly opposes a Palestinian state, also visited Seoul last month to attend the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace.

The two-day forum was held on October 17-18 and brought together over 1,000 participants from around the world to deal with cyber security issues. In what should be seen as a worrying connection given universal male conscription and the degree to which South Korea is already militarized, Elkin pointed how young people growing up in a militarized society are likely to look for jobs within the high tech start ups nurtured within the military industrial complex.

He further explained that “due to the security threat, we have a record number of young people who enter the fields of technology and cyber defense every year. Upon graduating from the military, many of these young minds join our flourishing high-tech sector.” Elkin, self-described as “the only Knesset member who lives in a caravan”, is also strongly opposed to the BDS movement which he construes as harmful to illegal settlers.

Another accused war criminal visited Seoul earlier this month. Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was invited to give the keynote speech at the Global Human Resources Forum which was held on November 6 in Seoul. Barak himself is an accused war criminal who participated in both the 2008-2009 and 2012 attacks on Gaza but who was able to avoid arrest in 2009 on grounds of diplomatic immunity  when he visited London in 2009.

It is concerning that such figures as Olmert and Barak are are to make public addresses in South Korea and not face any criticism. It is also a sign of the expanding economic and military relationship between the two countries. Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea deeply regrets that with a number of its members away, it was unable to organize any demonstration to protest their visits.

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