Thursday, December 07, 2006

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.


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