A GROUP of 600 South Koreans due to stay in Port Elizabeth during the Fifa World Cup have cancelled their trip, citing concerns about South Africa’s high crime rate and protest action.
The group had booked to stay at Parsons Hill Primary School and Lawson Brown High School for three days.
However the schools’ principals received an e-mail this week saying the visitors were cancelling their trip after media coverage in Korea of AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche’s murder, ANCYL leader Julius Malema’s verbal abuse of a BBC reporter, continual strikes and protests in the country and the burning and stoning of trains and buses.
South Korea is due to take on Greece in Nelson Mandela Bay on June 12.
Parsons Hills Primary School principal Clinton Saddler said the Korean supporters’ accommodation organisers had visited the school several times last year and in January this year to assess the facilities.
“They were impressed by the plan to temporarily convert classrooms into sleeping rooms and they booked for 300 adults at each school for two nights and one day during the June school holidays.”
Saddler said the organisers had paid R50000 to each school for accommodation.
“We were surprised to receive an e-mail from the visitors’ organisers in Cape Town on Tuesday saying they were cancelling the booking agreement with the schools.
“It would have been a wonderful foreign currency boost for the school but now it is a big loss for the economy of the city.”
Lawson Brown High School principal Donovan Cairncross said the cancellation was demoralising and a blow for the school’s plans of upgrading its facilities.
“We had a meeting with the organisers early this year and they requested the use of the school’s hall and classrooms since the facilities were close to the stadium and had a full view of it.
“We agreed to their request and they deposited a minimum amount to secure the deal and the balance was going to be fully paid by the end of this month.”
It had been a shock to receive the cancellation, he said.
“But I understand, they do feel unsettled being in a foreign country with serious crime reports and now they fear for their safety.”
In the e-mail sent to the schools, of which The Herald has a copy, the organisers of the Korean visit say the reasons for the cancellation include the “uncouth” behaviour of Malema towards foreign reporters, the “burning of trains”, the “media coverage regarding the killing of Eugene Terre’Blanche” and the “continual strikes in the country”.
Nagima Frizlar, a spokesman for Cape Town’s Korean Catholic Church, which was organising the supporters’ visit, said 1000 South Koreans had booked accommodation for the World Cup through their office.
“Our (leaders) went to South Korea in April to confirm the supporters’ visit, but it was with regret that he found some of the bookings had to be cancelled due to the safety concerns.
“The cancellation was based on the South African government which cannot secure their safety after ANCYL president Julius Malema’s singing of ‘Shoot the boer’. Now they fear they might be attacked because of their skin colour.”