Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Korean Americans for Fair Trade: Statement in Protest of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement

At the eleventh hour, the United States and South Korea signed the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (Korus FTA), the second largest free trade deal since NAFTA. President Bush and big business claim victory, but democracy has lost.

It is a sad day for peoples' movements around the world who are fighting to preserve human dignity amid growing corporate power over our lives and democracies. At 3:55 pm on April 1, 54-year old Heo Se-Wook, a union member of KCTU, attempted suicide by self-immolation as an act of resistance against the Korea-US FTA negotiation. He is in critical emergency condition at the Han-River Sungshim Hospital.

Heo Se-Wook, Lee Kyung-Hae and others who have sacrificed their lives have done so to salvage what little social protections remain under corporate-led globalization. By eliminating the power of governments to protect their own farms and factories that provide livelihoods to their citizens, the Korus FTA will enable the largest corporations in the world to dictate our nations' development. This is the lesson of NAFTA, which has exported over 1 million good paying U.S. manufacturing jobs and has forced over 1 million Mexican corn farmers off the land. The same
will happen under the Korus FTA, and even greater intellectual property rights will be granted to corporations to overturn our public laws, in the United States and South Korea.

Tens of thousands of people in South Korea have been protesting the FTA for the past 10 months, fearing what it will do to their livelihoods, their access to medicine, and their right to food security. A nation that recently suffered over three decades of brutal repression under dictatorships knows well the experience of sacrificing democracy for development.
And again, democratic rights have failed.

The South Korean government has deployed severely repressive tactics to quash dissent and opposition to the free trade talks. Whether it was the mere 20 minutes allowed for a hearing before President Roh Moo Hyun announced trade talks, or the fact that the Korean Advertising Broadcasting Agency blocked running an advertisement produced by farmers and filmmaker, the government has not allowed for open, public debate about the FTA's impact on the nation's economy and sovereignty. Tens of thousands of police have been deployed, checkpoints set up on major roads to halt workers and farmers from exercising their freedom of assembly and travel, and water cannons and batons have been used to strike fear into the minds and bodies of
protestors. The police has issued summons and warrants for over 170 social movement leaders, raided the local offices of civic organizations, detained leaders of farmers and workers organizations, and even made threatening phone calls to potential participants of public rallies. But this has not stopped the South Korean people from using their hard won democratic rights to organize by the tens of thousands in protest, waging hunger strikes and candlelight vigils.

Despite the South Korean government's efforts to quash dissent to the FTA, popular opposition has turned the disapproval rate of the FTA from 29.2 percent on June 7, 2006 to over 70% in the most recent poll, driven by economic anxieties and the growing conviction that civil society has been shut out of the negotiations process.

Promising development while ignoring democratic failure works against U.S. interests in South Korea. Should the FTA become law after an undemocratic process and in spite of mass popular opposition, the FTA will drive the perception in South Korea that America's democratic rhetoric is merely a cover for profit-seeking behavior. The U.S. does not need an FTA that further incites anti-Americanism; annual trade between South Korea and the U.S. already tops $74 billion, and this will continue whether or not the FTA becomes law.

We must work together to call on Congress, who has just an up or down vote, to vote against the Korus FTA. We must work together to call on Congress to end the Trade Promotion Authority to President Bush that doesn't allow for any voice from Congress or the people. We must call on Congress to start a fresh dialogue for a U.S. trade policy that respects international norms that uphold the human right to food, housing, health, education, and dignity. Without these goals as a centerpiece of our trade and development agenda, we will not secure more peace and security in the world.

88 comments:

Anonymous said...

And this will be the last we'll ever hear of the FTA from this crowd, as people will realize once again that trade agreements aren't all powerful and actually only have a small (and net positive) effect on an economy. When was the last time you heard a protest out of Chile and the FTA they did with us? Never, because it all worked out in the end. And we'll never see a serious complaint about the Korea FTA out of this group either.

Anonymous said...

May I translate this statement and post it on a common blog for anti-ratification of FTA in ohmynews.com (blog.ohmynews.com/weall)?

Anonymous said...

Please feel free to translate the statement from Korean Americans for Fair Trade (KAFT) for ohmynews.com

You can also learn more about KAFT at http://www.kaft.org

Anonymous said...

thanx for the info very much.

keisuke morishita said...

This is far off from the subject, but, i will write it any way because i don't know any other way to get in touch with you folks.
i live in atlanta and wondering if any body from your group is attending US social forum here in atlanta in July. if so, i'd love to exchange ideas or i could arrange an discussion group talk about the issues you are working on both in a atlanta progressive community and Georgia State Univ.

email me if you have some good news.
kunderforest@hotmail.com

Thank you and good luck


keisuke morishita

Inquilab Zindabad said...

This is in response to the first (anonymous) comment. I don't know what planet this person lives on --- in Mexico, a whole wave of unrest from the Zapatista revolution to the latest upsurge in Oaxaca last year were all a response to the effects of NAFTA. And it's only in the US that people are brainwashed enough to think that trade agreements have a "net positive" effect. That's what decades of right-wing economics textbooks and professors, and reading the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, do to you....in the rest of the world, we know that trade agreements have disastrous effects on all but a small wealthy elite. That's why people in Korea continue to protest the KorUS FTA. That's why millions worldwide have continued to protest the WTO. That's why we have a President Evo Morales in Bolivia and a President Rafael Correa in Ecuador. That's why Bolivians, Ghanaians, and Filipinos resist water privatization. (No, privatization does not bring "efficiency" as your stupid undergraduate economics textbook probably lulled you into thinking. Privatization prices water out of people's reach, and consequently, causes diseases like cholera to reappear. Just ask people in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Or Durban, South Africa. Or Manila, Philippines. Or Accra, Ghana. Or...the list goes on.)

So next time you try to make an argument, please base it on facts, not on right-wing propaganda that is taught in economics classrooms.

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