South Korea protesters greet Peres with cries of ‘killer’ 10Jun10 June 11, 2010

Haaretz -  10 June 2010

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters in South Korea greeted visiting President Shimon Peres with cries of “killer”, as he held talks with his counterpart in Seoul on Thursday.

Some 50 demonstrators surrounded the Israeli embassy under watch of four busloads of riot police to protest the Israel Navy’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla two weeks ago.

During the demonstration, protesters stained an Israeli flag with handprints in the color of blood and called on Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“We are here to denounce the Lee Myung-Bak government for welcoming the internationally criticised president,” priest Choi Hun-Kook told demonstrators, according to AFP.

South Korea announced on Sunday that it was downgrading the status of Peres’ trip from an official “state visit” to a routine “working visit”, due to international pressure in the wake of the Israeli raid on a Turkish-flagged ship and the deaths there of nine activists.

Initially, Seoul had even suggested postponing the trip to another date. Meanwhile, Peres canceled his planned visit to Vietnam at Hanoi’s request.

Pro-Palestinian organizations in South Korea began to prepare their demonstrations against the visiting Israeli president last week. One of the groups managed to get its hands on Peres’ full itinerary – including the hotel where the president is planning to stay – and published it on its website along with calls to join the protests.

It was these calls to protest that led the South Korea government to consider canceling the visit and to decide on the need for increased security and a revised itinerary for the Israeli president’s visit.

The visit was planned months ago, and was meant to be the first time an Israeli president had visited South Korea and Vietnam in an official capacity.

According to a statement issued by the Office of the President, Peres’ office, on its own initiative, contacted Korea University eight days ago to notify them that the President would not be able to participate in a ceremony planned for him, as opposed to reports that the university canceled the ceremony in light of the Gaza flotilla events, as was reported earlier in AFP.

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