S.Korea drops plan to use 'sound cannon' at G20

SEOUL — South Korea has suspended a plan to use 'sound cannons' at next month's G20 summit in Seoul after the tactic to disperse protestors drew criticism from rights' groups, an official said on Sunday.

Police had said they wanted to deploy Long Range Acoustic Devices -- or sound cannons -- that can emit up to 152 decibels.

But critics say prolonged exposure to the noise can cause hearing loss in and infringe on the right to stage protests.

Senior aides to President Lee Myung-Bak had a meeting Sunday and agreed to put the plan on hold, the presidential spokesman told AFP.

"There were many controversies on the plan to adopt the sound cannons, so it was agreed to suspend the plan," he said.

Police have been on high alert as Seoul prepares to host US President Barack Obama and other Group of 20 leaders at the November 11-12 gathering.

South Korea sees the summit as its biggest appearance on the world stage since the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Police have already outlined tight security measures including encircling the venue with a 2.2-metre (seven foot) fence and introducing a special law to give police greater powers to break up street rallies.

The law also allows a military presence in public places.

Authorities also announced a plan to import the sound cannons-- employed for the G20 Pittsburgh summit last year but restricted by a Canadian court before the Toronto summit in June, drawing intense criticism from civic activists.

The National Human Rights Commission is also investigating whether the use of the devices is necessary.

Last month 81 labour and civic groups launched an umbrella protest organisation, pledging to stage a wave of demonstrations against the summit.