Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Washington Post, December 13, 2006: Protests to delay US base move in South Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - Violent protests staged against the U.S. military presence in South Korea are likely to delay a major realignment of U.S. bases in the country, including the closure of a base in Seoul, the defense ministry said on Wednesday.

Daechuri residents are named People of the Year 2006 by news magazine Hankyoreh 21. Below is a recent photo that was Hankyoreh's cover photo, it is of the villagers standing on the rubble of the elementary school that was demolished last May.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Foreign Policy in Focus, December 13, 2006: Postcard from...Pyongtaek

Article written by an "Eyewitness Program" participant, Christine Ahn.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Photo from Korean Press, December 11, 2006

Click on the link above to read the article in Korean.

Monday, December 11, 2006

last day of action in MT

I am thrilled to be writing this update from the warm, cozy confines of my apartment back in Brooklyn, NY. All of our dongjis from Montana made it back home safe and sound, and I hope we are all resting and taking care of ourselves after a week of hard work!

After another long night Thursday, we got up Friday morning ready for our last day of action in Big Sky. Those of us on the 5-7 AM shift happened to see a city bus emblazoned with "Detention Center" on the side pass by our tents before rolling down to the front of the hotel. Clearly, the negotiators were expecting big things from us. One can only hope we did not disappoint.

At 9:30 AM, we held our final morning action -- another press conference, but this time with a special twist: we set up a table with food and drink as offerings and held a kosa, a ritual held to ask the spirits of our ancestors for blessings. Chairman Oh Jung Ryul delivered a statement and led us in bowing before the spirits. He also shared inspiring words with us linking the Korean people's struggle for self-determination and liberation with the struggles of people around the world fighting against U.S. imperialism. He pointed to the tallest mountain that had towered above us all week and reminded us that the land on which we stood was rightfully the land of the Native Americans, and that the arrival of Europeans on this continent had begun centuries of American-led genocide and war -- a tradition that continues today all over the world, including in Korea. I don't mean for this to sound heavy-handed at all: it was a beautiful, moving, heartfelt reminder of why we fight. Plus, check out that heavenly glow! Nice.

Next, we created a banner in preparation for the afternoon's activities that read "NO FTA" in huge letters. With makeshift trays of paint, each of us left a handprint, message, and signature on the banner to commemorate the week and renew our commitment for the following months in this fight against the FTA.

Shout-out to our resident crazy, drunken filmmaker, Kim Jong Gwan! If you can't tell, his statement says, "FTA will be defeated by my camera!"

We used this banner in our afternoon closing rally, which began just before 2 PM with samboilbae, three steps and one bow, a traditional Buddhist prayer march with a long, proud protest history. Given that our right to even set foot outside of Down Down FTA Town and onto the private property of the resort was disputed, our decision to go ahead with the samboilbae on the road leading away from the resort (thus blocking traffic) without arrests (despite numerous threats from our friends in law enforcement) was first, a credit to our amazing police negotiating team, Haeyoung and Joohyun from CAAAV, and second, symbolic of strength we had amassed over the week. The negotiators and their security teams wanted to run us off their property with our tails between our legs. But when we left, it was on OUR terms: dignified, disruptive, and unified, a reminder that we will continue this fight until it is won. As we marched and bowed, our final shouts of "Down Down FTA" literally rang off the walls of the hotel we faced.

Did I mention that in addition to being dignified and strong, it was a bit of a snowy, slushy, taxing affair? I don't know about y'all, but my knees and thighs are still a little tore up two days later.

Following the samboilbae, we snake-danced, drummed, chanted, and sang our way down the hill to the main entrance of Big Sky resort where we held our final rally of the week. Allies from local groups once again joined us and spoke out as we blocked the road, held our ground, reflected upon the week's events, looked forward to the next round of protest, and listened to eloquent statements reminding us yet again why it is so imperative that we defeat the KorUS FTA. We also got to do the Farmer Song dance one last time. You know: clap clap foot foot, clap clap shoulder shoulder, clap clap hip hip, clap clap twirl! Good times!

Big ups to Danny's taenguri leading the way!

And after the rally? We packed up, headed back to our home base, and started our all-night dwipuri party. The details? Let's just say: ten large bottles of soju, song, dance, and other performances, and some sleepy-ass plane rides home. The rest is classified. After all, what happens in Montana STAYS in Montana!!!! To find out more, you'll just have to come to the seventh round of negotiations, location and time TBA.

Soogo + lots of love,

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday, December 8

It's the morning of our final day in Big Sky!
The sun is rising over our tents. Weather reports say it will be in the forties today! Woo!

Too tired to write much. Instead, here are some pictures:

At the end of our candlelight vigil last night, we made a single line and snaked around the parking lot to the beat of Korean drums. At the end, we passed our candles one by one to Cheehyung, who placed them in the snow in the shape of the letters "NO FTA."

A view of the tents from outside. Told you it was in a parking lot!

A strategizing moment inside the big tent.

Snowpeople against the FTA!

Today: Press conference and rally at 9:30 AM. Surprise action and rally at 2 PM in Big Sky (stay tuned!). And tonight, dwipuri - our final celebration before we scatter back to our homes tomorrow.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Solidarity Anti-FTA Protest in DC

In solidarity with KoA and KAWAN protesters in Big Sky, Montana and hundreds of thousands of protesters in Korea, DC area activists held a rally against the proposed Korea-US FTA in front of the White House on Dec. 7 at 5 pm. The cold (not as cold as in Montana for sure) and darkness did not deter more than 25 protesters -- most of whom had participated in the week-long June protests in DC. Jaesoo Lee is the veteran of the group, having participated in the DC, Seattle and Seoul protests.

The action was co-sponsored by KAWAN and the ANSWER Coalition. H.K. Suh spoke for KAWAN, highlighting the history of anti-KorUS FTA protests and the reasons why there is so much opposition to it, and Brian Becker spoke for ANSWER, sending solidarity to Korean protesters who are being repressed by the South Korean government.

The NHK-TV and local Korean media covered the event. The WPFW radio had interviewed us earlier in the day. By coincidence -- or perhaps by fate -- an official group of Koreans from Korea on a policy research meeting on FTA came out to the Lafayette Park in front of the White House after their meeting and encountered the shouts of "Down, Down, FTA!" They must have thought that the protesters are following their every move! No place to hide -- either in Big Sky or in Washington, DC!

Koreans Civil Society reps disrupt talks at the KorUS FTA negotiations

Press release
Contact: Young Choe (347) 885-9226

Korean Protestors Pitch Tent to Protest, Infiltrate Negotiation Site

December 7 (Big Sky, MT) A group of 4 protestors from South Korea and one from the US successfully infiltrated the KorUS FTA negotiation site in Big Sky, dropping banners and blocking doorways before being escorted out by the hotel security. The banner, 24 feet in length, was hung on the third floor window of the Shoshone Hotel where the negotiators are staying. Shoshone Hotel is also adjacent to the site of the negotiations.

The presence of the protestors, who were peacefully and quietly walking about the lobby, nonetheless created tension among the delegates and the security personnel. Besides hotel security, the 5 civil society representatives were flanked by security personnel of the Department of State and the United States Trade Representatives. The visibly upset security personnel approached the protest area.

The protestors included representatives from Korean Peasants League, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, and Federation of Korean Trade Unions. The three groups have over 1.6 million dues-paying members in total.

The protestors were part of a group of 30, including activists from local Montana organizations that pitched a tent Wednesday night in the protest area designated by the hotel. The tent protest started with a candlelight vigil at 10 pm Wednesday night, and is expected to last until the end of the negotiations. 15 protestors stayed up in freezing temperatures in a show of resolve Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

In the press statement, the Korean Alliance against KorUS FTA pointed out that the stalled talks in pharmaceuticals, automobiles and trade remedy was a traditional negotiations tactic, and many concessions were in fact made, including South Korea's concessions to have a current legislation regarding drug prices reflect the agreements in the KorUS FTA. The protestors assess that liberalization of trade will lead to privatization of public services, as well as loss of food self-sufficiency.

The protests come on the heels of massive weekly protests in South Korea. On November 22, over 150,000 people gathered throughout the country to protest the FTA. On successive weeks of November 29 and December 6, the number of protestors topped out at 12,000 and 15,000 respectively, with over 10,000 in Seoul, the nation's capital on December 6.

The protestors plan on continuing to hold candlelight vigils and cultural festivals and brief rallies throughout the day and night Thursday, with a rally to close out the week of protests in Bozeman on Friday afternoon at 2pm.

Wednesday into Thursday, Big Sky, Montana

The briefest of updates from a cold laptop in a cold van in a cold parking lot in the cold, cold upscale ski resort of Big Sky.

Yesterday, Wednesday, after our snowperson action, our team decided that if we are to stay in our designated protest area, then we will stay in our protest area for the week. We pitched four small tents and a large tarp on the snow-covered parking lot with generous help and support from our allies at the Buffalo Field Campaign and, starting around 7 PM Montana time, began a campout. We are here to show the negotiators that their actions are being watched, that they can't ignore the voices of millions of Korean farmers and workers by hiding out in a fancy hotel. The night was cold but invigorating (you could say). In a group check-in, a representative from the Korea Peasants League, Chun Sung Do, said that the stars here above Big Sky look the same as the stars in Korea and that when he returns, he will look back up at the stars and remember the solidarity and warmth we have generated during this week. This was the sentiment throughout the night as we stayed vigilant until the early morning.

Just before we set up camp, our delegation visited a nearby farm to build solidarity and discuss the situations of small farmers in Korea and in the U.S. Dave and Becky, our hosts, showed us the farm where they raise cattle and sheep and the mill where they produce wool, and invited us into their warm, cozy home to share food and stories. Thanks, Dave and Becky! We even got to work a bit helping them set up the items they sell on their farm to make a living -- a stark contrast to the multinational agricultural corporations that will benefit from the FTA if passed.

A sad occurrence in the late afternoon on Wednesday: somehow, our beautiful snowpeople, our "white allies" as Joohyun called them, were mysteriously knocked over in our absence as we visited Dave and Becky's sheep farm. Of course, it is the true sign of a good ally to keep watch on the front lines as people of color engage in tactical and strategic struggles. Luckily, we were able to rebuild our snow people and snow animals to once again stand with us in solidarity. It appears that even silent, immobile protesters standing in line in a designated protest area cause fear in the hearts of the negotiating teams and their security. But we can't be knocked down that easily!
(We have had numerous other white allies with us this week: in a jeep watching over our tents, in our hotel rooms checking on our equipment, escorting our vans as we travel from place to place even when we didn't ask for it. It's so heartwarming to know so many levels of law enforcement are looking out for our well-being!)

A quick update from this morning: around 8:45 AM, representatives from the Korean Alliance Against the KorUS FTA dropped a colorful banner from the 6th floor of the Yellowstone Convention Center and hotel where the negotiations are happening. It read: NO FTA. The banner stayed up for an estimated thirty minutes while around ten members of our delegation wearing signs, headbands, and other accoutrements staged a silent march and protest in the hotel lobby. They stood in two lines for fifteen minutes as members of the Korean and U.S. negotiating teams entered for the morning's talks with the tension they felt evident on their faces. The rest of our delegation stood in a circle in our designated area, fresh after a cold night's sleep, and listened to a statement from chairman Oh Jung Ryul from Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA (Koa) before launching into a series of chants loud enough to reverberate into the hotel's entrance 200 yards away. Nice work, everybody!!!

Today's events: at 11, members of Koa will be meeting with the chief Korean negotiator for the FTA in the conference center. We will hold a press briefing at 1 PM with Korean and local media. Finally, throughout today's and tomorrow's actions, we will all be hanging out together in our "Agent Free Zone"/"No FTA Town"/"Designated Protest Area."

Final note: for the New Yorkers out there, tomorrow morning, Friday 12/8 at 7:30 AM, Mario Murillo, recent Eyewitness delegate on a trip to Pyeongtaek, South Korea, will conduct an interview on the morning show Wake Up Call with two members of our delegation, Lee Jang Gun from KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), and Yumi Lee from Nodutdol for Korean Community Development in New York City. Listen at 99.5 FM in New York or online at We will be discussing the protests here in Montana as well as next steps in the fight against the FTA in Korea and in the U.S.

p.s. pictures of everything forthcoming

Solidarity Statement from Grassroots Global Justice


Grassroots Global Justice [GGJ] stands in solidarity with the Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA (KoA), a South Korean coalition of 280 organizations, and Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations to oppose the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement on the occasion of the 5th round of negotiations taking place from December 4 through December 8 in Big Sky, Montana.

Free trade policies such as the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement [KorUS FTA] have had devastating effects on the lives of Americans as well as workers in the partner countries. Politicians and big corporations claim Free Trade Agreements will encourage foreign direct investment, create jobs and jump-start economies, but the reality of NAFTA has proven otherwise. NAFTA sent formerly high paying manufacturing jobs to Mexico, forced Mexican subsistence farmers to migrate to the cities, and drove down wages and working conditions for both US and Latin American workers, leading many to risk their lives immigrating to the U.S. Recently negotiated FTAs between the US and Colombia and the US and Peru are threatening to devastate rural Indigenous communities and their land, agricultural industries and resources. The impact of these agreements is expected to mirror those of NAFTA.

The KorUS FTA is the largest trade deal for the US since NAFTA. It is part of a larger US strategy to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with nations of the global South, to avoid the blocks of opposition among global South nations against trade policies that singularly benefit the US. For the US today, Asia is an important continent of focus in the advancement of neo-liberal globalization after Latin America. This year alone, U.S. pursued FTAs with Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea, with South Korea as the first, most comprehensive agreement that will set the tone for the others. South Korea has also historically served as a base of operations both economically and militarily for the US in the Asia Pacific region. Workers and communities around the world have a stake in stopping this agreement, as it is an important symbol of US unilateral power and neoliberal corporate expansion at the expense of the people of the world.

Our ally organizations representing peasants, workers, students and community organizations in South Korea have projected that the KorUS FTA will devastate Korea's farming sector (1/2 of farming population would be displaced; national food security down to 5%); deregulate worker protections; privatize healthcare, education, water, communications, electricity, etc.; increase cost of medicine; introduce OTB and casinos to Korea; devastate the film industry, and many other important national industries and aspects of Korean culture.

As a coalition representing grassroots organizations based in oppressed communities within the United States, we understand both the potential impact of such trade agreements and the history of oppression that they are part of. Many of us are in the United States due to US foreign economic and military policy. The same neo-liberal policies and US wars have displaced us from our home countries across the global South in search of alternatives to poverty and violence, and pushed us into exploitative, low-wage work in the United States. As immigrant workers and communities in the US, we are criminalized, excluded and displaced as we join the ranks of the rest of the working people in US who face deteriorating housing, health care, public education, and social services in the name of neo-liberal globalization. Others of us represent Native, Chicano and African American communities who must fight daily to maintain our land, homes, culture and basic human rights and dignity. The Artic drilling project, the militarization of the US-Mexico Border and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina are but a few examples of the living legacy of the US's history of slavery, colonization and displacement within its own borders.

GGJ adds our voice to those of peasant, labor and community leaders from South Korea this week in opposing the trade talks and neoliberal globalization. We commend the work of the grassroots coalitions and supporters around the world who have taken a stand against the FTAs and continue to organize in the name of global justice despite repression. We draw inspiration and energy from you and pledge to continue to organize and build the grassroots movement for global justice in the US!


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Korean Farmers Pitch Tents at Montana Ski Resort

Press Advisory
Contact: Young Choe 347.885.9226

Negotiators in 3rd day of talks, with determined protesters outside

What: South Korean farmers and workers are pitching a tent outside the Montana site of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KorUS FTA) negotiations. The farmers and workers are here to protest the KorUS FTA, which will be the largest free trade agreement since NAFTA, with potentially devastating job losses and lowered wages for Korean and US workers.
The 10 Korean protesters will be joined by 20 US and Montana fair trade activists and will their tent protest will last throughout the night and day, possibly into Friday. A candlelight cultural festival will open the protests.

Where: Parking lot of Shoshone Hotel at the Big Sky Resort.
Big Sky, Montana .

When: Wednesday, December 6, 2006 at 8pm.

Who: 10 representatives of Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA representing 280 civil society organizations, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Korean Peasant League, as well as other NGO's whose membership total over 2 million. They are joined by 20 + fair trade activists from United States representing Korean American and Montanan organizations.

Why: The protesters have traveled several thousand miles - from Korea as well as from various parts of the US to protest this 5th round of KorUS FTA negotiations. In spite of the negotiators’ attempt to avoid protests by meeting in a secluded sky resort (in Seoul today, over 30,000 protesters marched downtown), and to show resolve against the undemocratic nature of the talks, the protesters will be pitching a tent outside the negotiation site. They will protest in a tent in the cold Montana winter, in contrast to the trade negotiators luxuriating in the comfort of a top rated ski resort. Montanans voted for a fair-trade senator, and oppose free trade that reduces government subsidies and leaves small farmers vulnerable to market fluctuation. The KorUS FTA would affect automobile, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries, among many others. Large protests have been held in Korea, Seattle and Washington over the past half year as the talks have pushed on.

Tuesday and Wednesday, Big Sky, MT

Sorry for the delay in updating -- the power in the hotel went out briefly last night, cutting off our wireless access!

Yesterday was a day of negotiating space with the four (count 'em, four) different police forces dealing with us here in Montana (federal, county, and private). The picture above shows our "designated protest zone" in the resort. As you can see, it is in the corner of a parking lot behind the hotel and convention center (visible in the distance). We have been asked to refrain from setting foot anywhere else in the resort. Young Choe, media contact extraordinaire, shows how he feels about this order...

Tuesday morning, Dec. 5, 9:30 AM, Big Sky Resort.
We began the day with another press conference directly in front of the hotel (against the orders of the police). Using our voices, hands, drums, whistles, and noisemakers, we chanted, yelled, and sang songs to once again demonstrate our opposition to the secret FTA negotiations being held up in the conference center within the hotel. After several statements, we began a slow, solemn march to our "designated protest zone."

Tuesday afternoon was a time for meetings between small groups within our delegation with a variety of local forces. First, a small group including Koreans, KAWAN members, and representatives of local progressive organizations met with the staff of Montana Senator Baucus at his office in Bozeman. Senator Baucus is the one who invited the negotiators to Montana to hold their talks here this week; he is a strong proponent of free trade. In the meeting, our delegation discussed with his staff the reasons why we oppose this FTA and asked them to deliver our message to him directly. The second meeting was again held in Bozeman with members of our delegation and a local carpenters union to show and build solidarity between Korean and U.S. labor against free trade.

Tuesday, 9:30 PM, Candlelight Vigil, Big Sky shopping plaza
Our candlelight vigil was scheduled for 9:30 PM to be held simultaneously with massive protests in Korea against the FTA. At the same time that we lit our candles and sang songs for our evening action, tens of thousands in Korea took to the streets: around 10,000 farmers and 20,000 KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Union) members came out all over Korea to demonstrate their resistance to the KorUS FTA. Given this situation, it just would not have been right for us to meekly stay in our "protest zone" in the corner of the parking lot! Instead, we converged in the shopping area adjacent to the negotiators' hotel and conference center and sang songs, danced, and chanted as police watched us like hawks. At the end of the vigil, we were once again told in no uncertain terms that beginning Wednesday morning, we would not be allowed to go anywhere in the resort other than our tiny protest area. Mmmm...we'll see about that.

Wednesday morning 9:30 AM, Snowperson action.
As we drove up to the resort this morning to kick off the day with another peaceful, nonconfrontational, legal protest, the county sheriffs decided to escalate their anti-demonstration repression, sandwiching our three vehicles right at the only entrance to the resort, turning on their sirens, and barring us from entering. We were told that the only way we could enter the resort would be with a sheriff escorting us to the designated area. I might add that we had done absolutely nothing wrong or suspicious, and had a sort of fun and playful action planned for the morning. After an impromptu press statement delivered by Chun Sung Do from KPL at the side of the road with the sheriffs breathing down our necks, we were escorted to the parking lot/designated area bound off by yellow caution tape. As we gathered in our generously given protest zone, we thought to ourselves: what would help? What would lift our spirits and increase our power? More numbers!!!

More pictures of our snowperson action are forthcoming. Suffice it to say that even snowpeople and snowcreatures recognize the destruction that the FTA will bring for the South Korean people.

Anti-FTA Protests in Seoul, December 6, 2006

In downtown Seoul on Wednesday, December 6th, thousands of workers, farmers, and other progressives take the streets despite a police ban against anti-FTA protests.

Workers World, December 5, 2006: The Beef With US Beef Imports

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

South Korean Farmers to Meet and Work with Montana Farmers as Protests Against Free Trade Talks Continue

Media Advisory
Contact: Young Choe (406) 993-5259, (347) 885-9226

What: South Korean farmers and activists, here to protest the Korea-US Free Trade talks, will work on a Montana farm and meet with Montana farmers in Belgrade, MT. Sharing work and experiences as small farmers, the two groups will also discuss the impact of agricultural and trade policies on their lives.
The South Korean delegation is here to the protest the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KorUS FTA) talks which are in the fifth round of negotiations at the secluded ski resort of Big Sky, Montana. Protesters from Montana, LA and NY have joined the effort, and have been holding rallies and vigils in Big Sky and in Bozeman, MT.

: Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool Company. 13000 Springhill Road. Belgrade, Montana.

: 4pm Wednesday December 6, 2006

Who: Representatives of the Korean Alliance against KorUS FTA (KoA), a coalition of 300 civil society organizations including the Korean Peasants League and the Korean Advanced Farmers' Federation. The delegation includes Jun Sung Do, the Executive Director of the Korean Peasants League, and will be joined by US-based fair trade activists. They will be hosted by Becky Weed and Dave Tyler, family farmers who raise sheep and run a wool mill, and other family farmers from the neighboring area.

Why: The South Korean delegation is here to protest the KorUS FTA negotiations in Big Sky, Montana which covers 86 billion dollars in goods and services and is the biggest free trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement. (NAFTA) Bilateral and multi-lateral free trade agreements, especially ones based on the NAFTA model, have had devastating effects on local economies, including agriculture. Though free trade is touted as beneficial for agriculture as it opens more markets, fluctuating market prices and gradual reduction of price supports leave small farmers vulnerable against competition from big agricultural corporations. In addition to protesting against the KorUS FTA, Koreans want to know firsthand the experience of Montana 's small farmers by working on their farms and sharing experiences.

Monday, December 4 in Big Sky and Bozeman, Montana

Today was a full, productive, energizing (and cold!) day of action here in central Montana. Here's the rundown from early in the morning to obscenely late at night in this first day of struggle:

Opening press conference, 9:30 AM, Yellowstone Convention Center, Big Sky resort.
After an early start from our HQ outside of Big Sky, we headed up to the resort to meet the press -- right on time at 9:30 AM, complete with a sheriff escort on the way up and a welcoming police squad upon arrival telling us where and where not to park our vans. The USTR and other government agents providing security for the negotiators had graciously informed members of our delegation the night before that our actions at the resort would be relegated to a pitiful corner of the hotel parking lot 200 yards from the hotel entrance, 200 yards away from the negotiators' field of vision and demarcated by a couple of straggling orange traffic cones and a little string of yellow "caution" tape. Did that stop us? Pssshhh. We held the majority of the press conference, covered by every major Korean media outlet, directly in front of the conference site/hotel at Yellowstone Convention Center. Following a statement by Oh Jung Ryul, co-chair of Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA, our delegation marched in a slow, single file procession to the "protest zone," chanting and displaying our banners and placards. We heard from several other members of our delegation and Bozeman allies before we dispersed to prepare for our afternoon action.

Rally and March, 2 PM, Bozeman, MT
We drove down from Big Sky to the Labor Temple in downtown Bozeman, around the corner from Bozeman City Hall, where we began our opening rally for the week at 2 PM. We were joined by members of various social justice groups from Bozeman and surrounding areas -- Bozeman Peaceseekers, Montana Human Rights Network, the Buffalo Field Campaign, Via Campesina, and others -- to march through the streets of Bozeman in a show of solidarity between the South Korean people, Korean American activists, and US-based farmers, workers, and activists. Our numbers were small, but we more than made up for it in fierce, focused, and LOUD declarations and exhibitions of our joint struggle against the neoliberal policies that devastate sustainable local economies of food and labor. The rally, which ended up at the Bozeman Courthouse on Main Street, was brilliantly co-emceed by Joo-Hyun Kang from CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities in New York City, and Chun Sung Do, chojangnim of the Korea Peasants League. I think all the members of our delegation as well as the Bozeman groups joining us in solidarity left the rally feeling energized and heartened by the power we felt out on the streets together. One particularly beautiful moment: Danny Park, representing the LA-based organization KIWA, Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance, led our marching contingent in an impromptu "rest" to regain our energy in the frigid temperatures by lying down in unison on the sidewalk and chanting, screaming, and raising our fists against the secret resort FTA negotiations in the mountains, an hour's drive away.

Between the rally and our next event, the first of our nightly candlelight vigils to be held throughout the week, we were lucky enough to participate in a medic training facilitated by Josh Osher, EMT from the Buffalo Field Campaign, a local Montana group struggling every day to protect the environment against encroaching agro-business powers. He instructed us on how to take care of our bodies in the extreme temperatures and perilously high altitudes of the Montana mountains where the KorUS FTA negotiations are being held; he showed us just how tough our Montana allies are day in, day out. If the Korean and US negotiators truly believed that coming to Montana would allow them to hide out in a remote location free from protesters and progressive forces, the Buffalo Field Campaign and other local groups have defied their expectations a hundred times over. Thanks, BFC!!!

Candlelight Vigil, 5:30 PM, Bozeman City Hall
We finished our day's official events with a candlelight vigil in front of Bozeman City Hall. Again, our Bozeman allies came out in a powerful show against the FTA, witnessing the statements delivered by our dongjis from around the world. The vigil ended with several group songs before we dispersed until the next action, scheduled for Tuesday morning at Big Sky resort.

We ended the evening with a catered dinner provided from the one Korean restaurant in Bozeman and a group evaluation of the day's events. Officially. Unofficially, the day's events are still going strong, with the soju flowing and group songs led in rounds, twenty people crowded into a hotel room celebrating, feeling the love, building relationships across organizations and borders, excited and preparing for our next days in this struggle.


Schedule for the Montana struggle, Tuesday, December 5:
9:30 AM - Press Conference at Big Sky resort
1:00 PM - Meeting between anti-FTA delegates and staff of Montana Senator Max Baucus
2:00 PM - Leafletting and outreach in local communities
4:30 PM - Meeting between anti-FTA delegates and local Montana carpenters union
9:30 PM - Candlelight vigil at Big Sky resort in solidarity with day of mass mobilization in South Korea

--'s the birthday of Mr. Chun Sung Do, Cheojangnim from Korea Peasants League, Loyda Colon from the Justice Committee in New York, and Choong-Min Lee (turning 3!) of Seattle KAWAN, and in celebration we will struggle even harder tomorrow and throughout this week of action!!!


Monday, December 04, 2006

Houston Chronicle, December 2, 2006: S.Koreans to Protest Free-Trade Talks

Day 0ne in Montana

I am updating from a roomful of Korean, Korean American, and allied activists creating signs, banners, and pickets in a late-night blast of creativity against the KorUS FTA. What this means? The delegation of protesters for the 5th round of FTA negotiations in Big Sky, Montana has arrived! We made it to Bozeman safe and sound and ready for action, converging from South Korea, LA, New York City, and Seattle. Temperatures in Montana are frigid, but our spirits are high. Our already numerous encounters with the U.S. and Korean negotiating teams in these first few hours have only heightened our resolve and commitment to continuously voicing our opposition to the FTA. This blog will be updated from Montana throughout the week with information, stories, and photos.

Before I sign off -- an important note! The time and location of the press conference tomorrow morning have CHANGED. The press conference will be held at 9:30 AM tomorrow, December 4, outside the FTA negotiation site at the Yellowstone Convention Center, Big Sky ski resort. Join us to hear statements against the FTA from South Korean, Korean American, and local Montana organizations working in solidarity to resist these undemocratic KorUS FTA negotiations. We will move to Bozeman in the afternoon for the week's official kickoff and opening rally. See you there!

Tomorrow's actions in sum:
9:30 AM Press Conference at Yellowstone Convention Center, Big Sky
2:00 PM Opening Rally at Bozeman City Hall, Rousse and Main Street
6:00 PM Candelight Vigil at Bozeman City Hall

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Press Conference: Monday, December 4, 2006 at 10 a.m.

Join us at a press conference to kick off the week of protests against the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement negotiations being held in Big Sky, Montana from Dec.4-8.

Date and Time: Monday, December 4, 2006 at 10 a.m.
Location: Gallatin Labor Temple: 422 East Mendenhall Street: Bozeman, MT