South Korea Welcomes Leaders for G-20 Summit
South Korean police stand outside the venue for the G-20 Summit in Seoul on Nov. 10, 2010. (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images).
President Obama landed in Seoul, South Korea today for the Group of 20 Summit, where he will meet with leaders of the world’s most powerful economies to address issues facing the global economy.
South Korea is the first nation to host the summit that is not member of the original G7. The fact that the event will take place in Seoul is significant because it is an example of a recipient-turned-donor nation; one that has transitioned over the past 60 years since the Korean War from a developing nation to one of the world’s major economies, as Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies recently wrote.
As it prepares to host to a bevy of world leaders, South Korea has a sizable logistical -and security- task on its hands. In a news conference last week, President Lee Myung-bak said he does not believe the isolationist North Korea would attempt any kind of attack, but that his government is looking at any possible threats from its neighbor or terrorist organizations. Pyonyang called the heightened security measures a “farce,” accusing South Korea of using the summit to “foment fear” and thereby slander the North, according to AFP.
Frictions between North and South Korea escalated after the sinking of the the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, which killed 46 sailors. North Korea has denied involvement; South Korea has only recently backed off of its demand for a apology before six-party talks on denuclearization could proceed.
The G20 Summit is in some ways reminiscent of South Korea’s hosting of the 1988 summer Olympics, seen as an arrival of sorts on the world stage, and the 2002 World Cup, which South Korea co-hosted.
The more predictable security headache, however, comes from anti-globalization demonstrators that will line the streets of Seoul. Protesters have already converged on the city, and there were minor clashes with police at a demonstration near the Seoul City Hall over the weekend.
More than 50,000 police officers have been deployed to maintain security for the 10,000 participants. There is also a 7-foot fence lining the perimeter of where the meetings will take place.
Despite the extensive preparations, and precautions, Lee told the reporters that his government is “very confident in the safety and success of the Seoul summit.”