Did Beit Hanassi notify Korea University that President Shimon Peres, who on Thursday wound up a working visit to Seoul, would not be able to attend an event at which an honorary doctorate was to be conferred on him, or did Korea University retract its invitation for him to address its students and receive an honorary doctorate? Conflicting reports came out of Seoul and Jerusalem on Thursday as to why the visit to Korea University and the award of an honorary doctorate were cancelled, but the Beit Hanassi version ultimately prevailed.

According to an initial AFP report, the invitation was withdrawn in reaction to the Israeli naval commando raid on the Free Gaza flotilla. According to Beit Hanassi, more than a week prior to the visit Korea University was notified by Beit Hanassi that Peres regretfully could not accept the invitation, because it conflicted with another important event in which he was the keynote speaker.

The other event was a business seminar hosted by the Korean Manufacturers Association and attended by a delegation of some 60 Israeli business leaders.

An official for Beit Hanassi told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the AFP story was incorrect and that measures had been taken to have the incorrect sentence removed. By that time it had already been widely read on the internet and quoted, including by Israel Radio.

Beit Hanassi subsequently put out a press release denying the AFP report and presenting its own version.

In its initial announcement of the visit to Korea, which contained a synopsis of the President’s schedule, Beit Hanassi stated that the visit would include an address by Peres to hundreds of students at Korea University, and added that he would receive an honorary doctorate, but when the final itinerary was released by Beit Hanassi via the Government Press Office on the eve of Peres’s departure, there was no reference to Korea University.


Philippe Agret, the AFP bureau chief in Jerusalem, confirmed that the item had been amended. He told The Jerusalem Post that Korea University had retracted its original statement, “so we corrected it.”

Peres’s visit to the Republic of Korea, at the head of a 100-strong delegation, has been marked by both cheers and denunciation. People waving Israeli flags greeted him in the streets when he arrived, but there were also demonstrations outside the Israel Embassy and Peres’s hotel on Thursday denouncing Israel’s raid last week on the Gaza-bound flotilla, with protesters carrying signs proclaiming “Shimon Perez, the killer” and “Lift the siege on Gaza immediately,” and others defacing the Israeli flag with red palm prints to convey the impression of blood.

Prior to opening the joint Korea-Israel business seminar, Peres met with President Lee Myung-bak. The two men discussed strengthening co-operation in trade, investment and exchanging research in renewable energy and other technologies. “There was no direct mention of the issues surrounding Israel's flotilla incident,” a South Korean presidential spokesman said.

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