Skip to main content

South Korea suspends tear gas exports to Bahrain

By Schams Elwazer, Mohammed Jamjoom and KJ Kwon, CNN
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
A protester runs from tear gas fired by Bahrain's riot police during a protest west of Manama on December 17.
A protester runs from tear gas fired by Bahrain's riot police during a protest west of Manama on December 17.
  • Rights groups pressure the South Korean government to halt shipments to Bahrain
  • The move comes after months of campaigning against the use of tear gas
  • Bahraini authorities say tear gas is necessary to maintain order
  • The Bahrain interior ministry says it was not told of the ban by Seoul

(CNN) -- South Korea is suspending exports of tear gas canisters to the Gulf island nation of Bahrain amid pressure from human rights groups, an official said Thursday.

"We've decided to suspend (the shipment of tear gas) because of the unstable political situation in Bahrain, requests from human rights groups and civilian deaths," an official with South Korea's state-run Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), which oversees the country's military trade, said.

"We got requests Dae Kwang Chemical Corporation and another company on whether they can get permission to export the tear gas to Bahrain," the DAPA official said.

"After discussions with the Defense and Foreign Ministries on the issue, we informed the companies to suspend the exports."

The move by Seoul comes after months of campaigning by rights groups who say the Bahraini authorities' misuse of tear gas has led to dozens of deaths as the Shiite majority protests against the Sunni-led government. The authorities have argued that tear gas is necessary to maintain order.

Human rights groups had launched a campaign called Stop The Shipment after leaked government documents appeared to show that Bahrain, a country of 1.3 million people, had ordered around 1.6 million tear gas canisters.

In October, the U.S.-based group Physicians for Human Rights reported that Bahrain's police "weaponized tear gas" had caused the deaths of at least 39 people since February 2011 in an ongoing crackdown on anti-government protests, a claim the government disputes.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry said it had not been informed of any such ban by Seoul.

"Teargas is used by Bahrain's police force only as a necessary and proportionate measure and in public order and riot control situations. It is used entirely in compliance with international law," it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bahraini and international rights groups welcomed the move.

"I think it's great news and we commend South Korea on the decision they've taken," Bahraini rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja said.

"We're starting with tear gas but we expect to see countries who say they are concerned about human rights stop the sale of all types of weapons to Bahrain."

CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report

Part of complete coverage on
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1033 GMT (1833 HKT)
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1122 GMT (1922 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.