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G-20 Plagued by Timidity

Posted on Nov 15, 2010
Steven Borowiec

By Steven Borowiec

SEOUL, South Korea—The first trouble at Seoul’s G-20 summit came on the opening morning. A woman showed up at the main building’s entrance shouting obscenities about the South Korean government and doused herself in flammable paint thinner. Before she could set herself ablaze, she was subdued by security officials and dragged away. She was unaware that she would later be a metaphor for the entire summit: potentially explosive, but smothered before anything spectacular could happen.

South Korea took great pride in being the first non-G-8 and first Asian country to host a G-20 Summit. Officials hoped the event would confirm South Korea’s ascension to the elite club of global economic powers.

“What the chairing of the G-20 gives us is the self-confidence that not only are we better off, but we are a part of a community that is responsible for leading the global community. Our voices are heard informing global policies, and that is a big responsibility that we’ve never had before. It really shows us that we can move on now to the next level in terms of how the world will see us,” G-20/South Korean spokesperson Sohn Jie-ae said in an interview.

The agenda for the summit was ambitious, mainly to find a post-crisis development model and prevent a trade war from breaking out over currency valuations.

The South Korean government was nervous about making everything just right for its well-heeled visitors. In trying to go the extra mile, one is liable to go too far. The summit brought an unprecedented level of security to Seoul. The main meeting site was the Coex complex, in the affluent south of the capital. The area around Coex was locked down. A 7-foot fence was built around the site, manholes were sealed,and about 50,000 police officers were dispatched. Protests anywhere near the meetings were banned.


Square, Site wide

Protesters who made it to the meeting area were removed. A couple of blocks from where world leaders met, student Han Dae-gi and two companions came to protest being removed from their homes by Daemyung Construction. Their case is common in Seoul: lower-income housing bought up by developers who force out occupants with little or no compensation.

Police told them the area was off-limits and they would need to get on the subway and go to another part of the city. Han told me, “They don’t want to hear our voices.”

With the meeting complex inaccessible to them, protesters moved to the square outside the Seoul train station, in the city’s north.

On a gloomy Thursday afternoon, labor activists from around the world gave speeches and led chants opposing the G-20. They called for a financial transaction tax, stricter financial sector regulation and government job-creation programs.

“We need to look at who really caused the economic crisis and not put the burden on regular people,” said Ryu Mi-kyung of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the protest’s main organizing body. 

Fighting with police is a pastime of South Korean activists. A special security law was passed in South Korea’s National Assembly specifically for the G-20. Among its measures was a ban on marches. Labor and civic groups got permission to stage a protest on the day of the G-20 but were told they would not be allowed to march. By the rally’s conclusion, riot police had formed a human barrier around the venue. After some scuffles, protesters broke through and marched en masse through the city. A mock coffin was burned in the street.

The summit was short on the diplomatic achievements some had hoped for. The United States and South Korea were unable to secure a free trade agreement. According to the Seoul Communiqué, the document issued at the meeting’s conclusion, member states “will move toward more market-determined exchange rate systems and enhance exchange rate flexibility to reflect underlying economic fundamentals and refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies.”

That being said, no concrete steps were taken to prevent “competitive devaluations”—a polite term for currency manipulation. The G-20 leaders agreed to fight imbalances in savings and spending but will delay until next year figuring out specifically how to accomplish that.

That same document also describes the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth, a development model that is said to characterize a partnership between advanced and low-income countries that emphasizes trade and infrastructure investment in order for developing countries to grow out of poverty. It is based on the model that led South Korea from scarcity to wealth in 60 years and will probably be the summit’s main feat. Its architects hope the Seoul Consensus enters the global economy’s nomenclature as a replacement for the Washington version.

At the model’s core is a growth-centered model with strong state involvement. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told reporters, “There will be a broad consensus in Seoul on ways to boost the long-term growth potential in underdeveloped nations and help them stand on their own feet.”

It’s appropriate that this consensus reflects the city that bears its name: not sexy enough to make big headlines, but diligent and pragmatic.

It will be a while before the accomplishments of the Seoul Consensus are known, but it is clear at this point that this G-20 was plagued by timidity: the South Korean government’s anxiety about making a flawless impression and world leaders’ fear of political backlashes at home if they yielded too much in negotiations over trade or currency. It’s an old story: Politicians bicker while the streets rumble across town. Maybe next time someone will succeed in bringing fire to the summit.

Steven Borowiec is a writer living in South Korea. He blogs here.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, November 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment


And where I used to work, therewhen, “extreme prejudice” meant assassination, forthwith. So, is that a threat, thereupon?

And where, foresooth, is my copy of the Request for Service Abroad concerning Extrajudicial Documents, perforce, mayhaps, herewith?

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Orbis Unum's avatar

By Orbis Unum, November 18, 2010 at 11:01 am Link to this comment

Re: rico, suave, November 18 at 3:25 pm.

You state: “Orbis:

“or these above actions shall be expedited with extreme prejudice.”

Is that a threat?? Do you know what “extreme prejudice” implies?”

Response: As to your query appertaining to phraseology applicable the above referenced quote, anyone familiar with the legal term ‘prejudice’ may inform you, that the term means actions taken by those prejudicial, before judicial proceedings are commenced. And depending on the circular circumstances, such actions predicated before any judicial hearing may require expedited discovery in the interest of security. 

As far as the rest of your adolescent insolence is concerned, try and grow-up for your own health and well being. Hopefully, you’ll learn to exchange ideas with a little better demeanor. Why should you do this, you might ask? Well, you can never tell whom you might come across and their reaction to your actions!

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, November 18, 2010 at 9:25 am Link to this comment


“or these above actions shall be expedited with extreme prejudice.”

Is that a threat?? Do you know what “extreme prejudice” implies?

Besides, since you’re “internationally protected” and, I assume, intergalactically protected by some protocol of the Federation of Planets Thereto, you needn’t worry too much about my knocking on your door, thereon. I’m sure Interpol has the tap on my phone already.

I know it’s extremely juvenile of me to keep pestering you on this website, but I can’t help myself. You’re such a goof.

Oh, and, please do copy me with the “Request for Service Abroad concerning Extrajudicial Documents”. Easier still, do you have a link for that? NO! Not your goofy manifesto either.

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Orbis Unum's avatar

By Orbis Unum, November 17, 2010 at 11:51 pm Link to this comment

Re: rico, suave, November 18 at 4:02 am.

You state: “Orbis:

I ain’t worried about knock, knock. I DO the knock, knock. Maybe YOU should worry. I know who you are and I know where you live. Lock your door.”

Response: Your comment’s are taken very seriously! Because you statements are tantamount to RICO stupidity. Not to mentioned a violation of International Conventions.

But hey, what the heck, I’m sure the Central Authority within the U.S. State Dept., wouldn’t mind receiving a better understanding from you, concerning your meaning and/or intent via this quoted thread and link. As evidence of threatening and intimidating an internationally protected individual. What do you think?

I’ll prepare the Request for Service Abroad concerning Extrajudicial Documents per the convention governing the protocols thereto. I should accomplish this service with other documents going to the Executive Branch thereof, concerning other matters, over the next several weeks. Look forward to the transcript feedback!

So, if possible please refrain from any more threatening comments or these above actions shall be expedited with extreme prejudice.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, November 17, 2010 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment


I ain’t worried about knock, knock. I DO the knock, knock. Maybe YOU should worry. I know who you are and I know where you live. Lock your door.

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Orbis Unum's avatar

By Orbis Unum, November 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment

Re: rico, suave, November 17 at 11:31 pm.

You state: “Orbis:

You’re back! Still perfecting the logorrhea and pimping your intergalactic constitution I see. ”

Response: Now, now! Be nice. You can never tell who’s watching and whether your pay grade could withstand arbitrary knock, knock at 3am in the morning, just for giggles in return!

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, November 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment


You’re back! Still perfecting the logorrhea and pimping your intergalactic constitution I see.

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Orbis Unum's avatar

By Orbis Unum, November 16, 2010 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Re: basho, November 15 at 5:47 pm.

You state: “this blog is nothing but a re-hash of the of the nightly news.”

Response: I couldn’t agree more with your premise! Whether, concerning this particular article or the generalities of every article written by the columnists parading themselves herein. We know their parade has nothing to do with solutions, until proven otherwise, by confronting the underlying issues of social indoctrination.

If this blog where ever intended to expose or so-called dig for the truth, I would not make such a claim as aforementioned.

But the fellows over at could give you a what’s up about reporting present schemes of indoctrination. While we address the underlying historical issues related thereto.

Individuals, singularly or collectively, find it hard to face their duty upon the Watchtower of self-determination in support of self-evident principles, ‘that all men are by nature are equally free and independent, and have certain unalienable rights, of which, when they enter into a State of Society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety,’ but the responsibility of our present and future generations doesn’t change just because the truth is hard to face!

As evidenced of those who have sacrificed for years to peel away the programming of misrepresentation by social role models most have paid dearly one way or the other to expose, we offer the truth of the matter via the “4” declarations espoused by the S.E.A., published via the web link:, available for those honestly looking for researching the truth, in the interest of Good Will with All Walks of Life seeking Universal Peace and solution oriented paradigms to the problems of systemic fraud.

We honorably await any evidence to prove the premises presented in-particular to the established facts raised within the Universal Declaration dealing with the Four Freedoms on pages 13-15 to prove otherwise.

Having said all this, I will be constantly vigilant, awaiting evidenced, line for line, contrary to the documentary evidence we have proffered!

And once again, as our humble attempt for those capable of presenting facts line for line, in the light of reasonable propositions or otherwise, just as a reminder for all those who honorably exchange ideas within the ‘Truthdig Forum’ while refraining from hateful or insolent behavior…always remember, sometimes while exchanging ideas, the time and respect we give, from a deep seated desire to foster harmonious behavior to garner enlightenment, can be met on the road of hopeful enlightenment, by those seeking to discourage, rather than exhorting to greater possibilities.

My best to all who post herein, for the purpose of proposing hopeful enlightenment or garnering enlightenment, while proffering Good Will in the interest of seeking Universal Peace with All Walks of Life!!!

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By berniem, November 15, 2010 at 6:47 pm Link to this comment

The corporatocracy and it’s plutocratic pilots do as they wish because they control the world’s wealth and the ability to mobilize and fund insurmountable brute force! The cost of security for such demonstrations of power and disdain for the lesser people of the world is ultimately paid for by those protesting the unequal distribution of wealth. Sort of like the family getting the bill for the execution of one of it’s members! These silly protests do nothing more than provide fodder for the corpoate-owned MSM who further profit from the rubes’ subscription to it. As has always happened and will do so again, violence will escalate until revolution ensues sweeping all aside to be replaced by an updated version of what has just been removed starting anew the never ending cycle of inequality and the culling of the herd!

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By peedeecee, November 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

By the way, the cost of security for the G20 summit in
Seoul was ONE-TENTH the cost of the summit last June in

Hear that, Prime Minister Harper? ONE-TENTH of the
amount of taxpayer money you wasted.

(And guess which country is more known for violent
protests? )

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basho's avatar

By basho, November 15, 2010 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

recalling an old Wendy’s commercial:

“Where’s the beef?”

this blog is nothing but a re-hash of the of the nightly news.

“but it is clear at this point that” the author “was plagued by timidity.”

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By balkas, November 15, 2010 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

koreans [note, please, in do not split korea in two], americans can protest all they
want—it still only makes matters worse.
alas, dissenters in u.s. still have not espied this fact. or, have, but appear
deliberately misleading people into an evaluation {[un] conscious} that because they criticize, march, protest that
anything wld change that plutocrats don’t want changing.

all previous changes that protesters thought they wrought, were in fact beneficial
most of all to plutocrats, warlords, and masters of people.

this appears an eternal invariant: even any change is but the change approved by
owners of people.
warlords utterly control change also; any change. tnx

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