Monday, February 12, 2007

Feb 12th: Korean Farmers, Labor Activists and U.S. Labor Protest And Hold All Night Vigil at Free Trade Talks Site in DC

Monday, Feb 12th, 2007 – till Feb 13th
Washington Court Hotel

525 New Jersey Ave.NW (Corner of E St. and New Jersey Ave)

Today, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and others joined the South Korean delegation from the
KOREAN ALLIANCE AGAINST KOREA-US Free Trade Agreement (KoA), and Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN) to protest and rally in front of the negotiation site of the Korea-US Free Trade talks.
At the Washington Court hotel, as hundreds of negotiators attempt to speed up talks on what will be the largest free
trade agreement since NAFTA, over a hundred demonstrators outside the hotel called to end the talks and demanded
“Fair Trade, not Free Trade!”

Protesters attempted to enter the negotiation rooms, but were held back by security. Determined to tell the
negotiators that millions of Korean workers, farmers – and countless American workers are endangered by the current
agreement, members of KoA and KAWAN have decided to hold an all night vigil in front of the hotel, until they are
allowed to speak with the negotiators.

“The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is attempting to ignore us, as it has ignored the working people both here in the U.S. and in Korea,” says Yul-san Liem of KAWAN. “We refuse to leave the negotiation site until they talk to us and hear how the Kor-US FTA is already destroying people’s livelihoods!”

The KoA delegation includes Huh Yeong Gu, (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), Kyung Shik Moon Korean Peasants League), Jin Pil Kim (Korean Advanced Farmers' Federation), Dae Jin Baik Federation of Korean Trade Unions) and Jung Gwanghoon (delegation leader). Jin Pil Kim represents the farmers group whose member Lee Kyung Hae took his life in protest of the WTO Cancun talks in 2003.

These activities follow a march and rally yesterday, Sunday, and are part of a series of protests against this 7th and possibly last round of Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (Kor-US FTA) negotiations, taking place in DC. The week will include daily rallies, vigils, marches and more.

(The Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA), a South Korean coalition of 280 organizations and KAWAN (Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism), a national coalition of progressive Korean American organizations, with support from over 100 immigrant, people of color, LGBT, farmers, workers, womens, anti-war and anti-globalization groups from throughout the United States.

The voices of the people most impacted by the trade agreement - the citizens of US and South Korea - have been ignored by the trade negotiators. The majority of the South Korean public opposes the trade agreement, holding protests with as many as 150,000 people. The Kor-US FTA has received little attention in the US media, although it will be the largest free trade agreement that the US has negotiated since NAFTA.

This week is seen as a potential final battle in this fight for fair trade and worker's rights.
The Korean delegation includes labor activist Huh Yeong Gu, who was recently sentenced to a two year jail term for protesting the negotiations but received a stay of imprisonment. While trade negotiators attempt to complete their work before the Bush administration's Fast Track Authority ends in June - the protesters are just as determined to end the talks and to demand that the new Democratic Congress follow through on their election commitments to fair trade over free trade.

(photos from KBS News)

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Hey dongjideul, already trying to enter the negotiations and camping outside? Go ahead with your bad selves! The rest of the Seattle crew is with you in spirit... except that we are a lot warmer, I'm sure. Stay safe, struggle hard, and stop the FTA! Toojeng,