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The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul
"Civic and religious groups have reacted angrily"
 real 28k

Monday, 30 October, 2000, 08:47 GMT
South Korea bars Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama: Unwelcome in South Korea
The South Korean authorities have halted a visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

The public will doubt the nation's diplomatic ability against the arrogant pressures by the Chinese authorities

Korea Times

"The government does not think it's appropriate to allow the Dalai Lama's visit this year," said a foreign ministry spokesman, Lee Nam-Soo, in a statement.

He gave no reason for the ban, but officials indicated it was intended to avoid a diplomatic row with China, which considers the Tibetan leader a separatist.

The decision was strongly criticised by the South Korean Buddhist group which had invited the Dalai Lama to visit the country on 16 November.

Chinese pressure

"It's outrageous," said Jung Woong-Ki, adding that his group was launching a campaign to press for Foreign Minister Lee Joung-Binn to resign over the issue.

The Dalai Lama has not seen the Tibetan capital Lhasa for more than 40 years
The government's decision confirms earlier indications by the immigration authorities that the Dalai Lama would be refused a visa.

The Tibetan leader's proposed tour comes shortly after a visit to the country by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji for the Asia-Europe summit meeting.

In September the Chinese Embassy in Seoul wrote to Korean officials expressing Beijing's "strong displeasure" over the visit and saying it should be postponed until 2001.

Beijing has repeatedly warned its Asian neighbours against giving the Dalai Lama a forum to promote his campaign for Tibetan autonomy.

In April the governor of Tokyo cancelled a meeting with the Dalai Lama amid fears that it could hurt Japan's ties with China.

Government criticised

In an editorial on Saturday, the Korea Times newspaper criticised the government's handling of the issue.

Kim Dae-jung
President Kim has himself just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
"Not only the members of the private citizens' groups who invited the religious leader, but also the general public will doubt the nation's diplomatic ability against the arrogant pressures by the Chinese authorities," it said.

The BBC's correspondent in Seoul, Caroline Gluck, says many people note the irony that the South Korean president, Kim Dae-Jung - named this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner - is refusing to allow a visit by the Dalai Lama, a former Nobel Laureate.

President Kim won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his rapprochement policy with the communist North as well as his work for human rights and democracy both in South Korea and throughout East Asia.

The Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into India in 1959, after China annexed Tibet in 1950.

Since then the Tibetan Government in exile has estimated that 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of the Chinese occupation.

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