Saturday, June 30, 2007

Anti-FTA Signing Ceremony

For immediate release
June 30, 2007

Contact: Hyun Lee 347 242 6801

As the U.S. and Korea Sign the Biggest Trade Agreement since NAFTA,
Koreans at the First U.S. Social Forum Sign Anti-FTA Resolution

ATLANTA, GA — Koreans from all over the U.S. and abroad at the first ever U.S. Social Forum marked the official June 30 signing of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an “anti-FTA signing ceremony”. Leaders of people’s movements from Korea and the U.S. spoke out against the devastating consequences of NAFTA-style free trade.

“Today, the Korean and U.S. governments sign a death sentence for the millions of small farmers and workers in Korea,” said Jaesoo Lee, Executive Director of Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism. “We, gathered at the first ever U.S. Social Forum, condemn the two governments for imposing NAFTA-style free trade that will devastate the lives of millions in both countries. In opposition, we sign a collective resolution to step up our fight to defeat the Korea-U.S. FTA.”

South Korean and U.S. trade officials sign today a free trade deal they struck in April that studies warn could wipe out Korea’s agricultural sector when markets open up to U.S. goods, and cut off access to life-saving medicines for the poor. The biggest U.S. trade deal in 15 years, reached after 10 months of negotiations, has faced fierce opposition from South Korean small farmers and trade unionists, as well as Korean Americans, who have joined forces to stop its passage. Today marks the deadline by which the FTA must be signed in order to be eligible for the fast-track process once it is sent to the U.S. Congress. After it is signed, the FTA must be voted on by the legislative bodies of both countries to be ratified.

Speaking of the last minute negotiation efforts by the U.S. to include provisions on labor and environment in the final agreement, Christine Ahn, National Coordinator for Korean Americans for Fair Trade said, “The so-called ‘fixes’ made to get the deal through the Democratic controlled Congress do not sufficiently address the problems with the NAFTA model and must not be passed."

“NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] was directly responsible for creating economic refugees, forcing Mexican small farmers off their land and to migrate in search of a more sustainable living,” added Hyuk-kyo Suh, Executive Director of National Association of Korean Americans. “This ‘one-size-fits-all’ U.S. free trade agreement model has been proven to fail.
The time for a new direction in U.S. trade policy is long overdue."

Farmer leaders from Korea, Colombia, and the U.S. led a crowd of four hundred gathered at the Atlanta Civic Center in hand-stamping red paint on a banner that read “No FTA” as a collective show of resolution to fight together to oppose the Korea-U.S. FTA.


Resolution to Oppose the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement
And All NAFTA-Style “Free Trade”

For over a decade, multinational companies and their allies in government have been using so-called "free trade" agreements to restructure the economy for their own benefit. Corporations impose privatization, smaller public budgets, and lower labor and environmental standards on the world's people without our consent. So-called "free trade" allows companies to move jobs across borders in search of cheap labor and lax environmental standards, force workers into low wages and substandard conditions, and plunder the world’s scarce natural resources.

Working-class communities, communities of color and indigenous peoples have suffered the brunt of this attack, with the loss of good jobs, poisoning of our environment, and privatization of land and public services. As so-called “free trade” destroys the livelihoods of people in poorer countries, they are forced to leave their families to work in wealthier countries.

As we speak, the Bush administration seeks renewal of Trade Promotion Authority, or "fast track," which gives him the ability to sign trade agreements without democratic process. Bush is also seeking approval for free trade agreements recently negotiated between the United States with Colombia, Panama, Peru, and South Korea. These agreements are modeled after the failed NAFTA. The weak labor provisions of these free trade agreements will restrict the ability of workers to seek better wages and working conditions. They would add to the problem of global warming by removing South Korea’s auto emission standards, as well as causing severe damage to the virgin tropical forests of Colombia, Panama and Peru. Increased importation of subsidized American crops will devastate small farmers and destroy these countries’ food self-sufficiency.

The governments of Colombia, Peru, and South Korea, in their eagerness to pursue free trade agreements with the United States, have violated the basic principles of democracy and used violent repression against their own people, including the assassination of 2000 labor leaders in the case of Colombia, and the outlawing of all protests against the free trade agreement in South Korea.

The social and environmental justice movements around the world have been at the center of resistance to corporate globalization. The spirit of internationalism, solidarity, and militant struggle for another world unite the fifteen thousand people gathered here in Atlanta for the first-ever U.S. Social Forum. Now is the time to intensify the struggle for an alternative model of economic integration, an alternative which reflects the needs and aspirations of those most affected by corporate globalization. We must continue our opposition to all alleged "free trade" agreements, and "fast-track," which serve only to enrich multinational corporations at the expense of the rest of us.

Today, June 30, 2007, marks the official signing of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement between the Korean and U.S. governments. We, gathered at the first-ever U.S. Social Forum, condemn the two governments for signing what amounts to a death sentence for the millions of small farmers and ordinary workers in both countries. Therefore, we are resolved to strengthen our struggle to defeat the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and all NAFTA-style free trade. We are further resolved to redouble our efforts to build a just, inclusive, and sustainable world, where people and environment come first before profits.

June 30, 2007
U.S. Social Forum, Atlanta Georgia

Friday, June 29, 2007

Korean caucus at the USSF


Saturday, June 30, 2007
"Fighting US Militarism in the Asia Pacific Region" Westin Hotel International G (NOTE ROOM CHANGE)

"Approaches to Organizing on Trade" 1 PM International B Room at the Westin Hotel

As someone who is new to blogging, please bear with me as I develop a blogging style that is suitable for our blog.

It's Friday night and I'm at the Westin Hotel. It's been a full day at the USSF. We started today's sessions with an incredible Korean caucus. We had all of our Kawan members--over 20--and then some 30 new Korean faces. We went around the room introducing ourselves and where we came from, and there were cities never represented before by KAWAN--Atlanta, Burlington, and several others.

Then JC did an off the hook brief history of progressive Korean activism stemming from the turn of the last century. We're hoping to upload the presentation since it was so good and concise. I wont attempt to go into the history but one statistic that stayed with me was the fact that Koreans in the US had sent $88,000 despite earning something like 65 cents per day over 35 years to Shanghai province to support independence struggles during japanese occupation. After that, Hyun brought us to the present and updated us on the work that KAWAN has done in the past year around Pyongtaek and the Korus FTA. It was remarkable to hear how we've managed to organize resistance at every negotiation from DC to Seattle to Montana to DC. We've also managed to publish several opeds and even organize a legislative lobby strategy! Plus we organized the eyewitness delegation to Pyongtaek and for the FTA struggle in Seoul.

But KAWAN is significant because it is the first time that Coreans in the US are coming together since the 1980s when they were supporting the pro-democracy movements. Plus we are very diverse in age, generations, language, gender, politics, etc. We then discussed our challenges and opportunities, which were a remarkable list of what's possible. We closed our caucus with the Assata Shakur quote:
"It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains."

Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked around the circle and saw the powerful young leaders who will carry on this work of reunification and equality. We then finished with some groups photos, which I will post later.

There's so much going on here at the US SF, but there seems to be alot of energy around the Right to City campaign organized by CAAAV, Miami Workers Center, and several other movement-based organizations around the country. Keep your eyes peeled for this exciting movement.

More to come,

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Countering the Bilateral Free Trade Agenda

KAWAN at the US Social Forum Events to Come

Friday, June 29, 2007
KAWAN Caucus, 10:30 AM at Atlanta Ballroom H, Westin Hotel

Saturday, June 30, 2007
"Fighting US Militarism in the Asia Pacific Region" 1PM at Balcony Left room, Atlanta Civic Center

"Approaches to Organizing on Trade" 1 PM International B Room at the Westin Hotel

Greetings from Atlanta!

KAWAN organized its first workshop today with Grassroots Global Justice and Witness for Peace on Countering the Bilateral Free Trade Agenda. At one point during the workshop, I looked around the room in total awe at the diversity and power that existed in the room. Speaking to the experience that unfettered free trade has had on farmers and peasants in the U.S. and around the world were Norberto Jimenez from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, German Bedoya--a Colombian campesina, Bill Christensen from the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, and Sin Moon Hee of the Korean Women Peasants Alliance.

Norberto Jimenez from CIW immigrated to Immokalee, FL from Oaxaca, Mexico where before NAFTA he and his family were subsistence farmers. He said, "Before NAFTA, our lives were never easy, but we had enough food for ourselves and our families." But because NAFTA allowed massively subsidized crops from the United States to be dumped into Mexico, millions of Mexican farmers and peasants, unable to survive have been forced to migrate to the cities to find work in the factories or to risk their lives crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to find slave wages and no human rights in America.

The next speaker was German Bedoya, a Colombian campesina, who KAWAN had the fortune of traveling with us all the way to Korea for the Eyewitness delegation last November. German shared how the Colombian economy was forced open in 1990 as cheap products began to flood their markets from all over, which rapidly led to the disappearance of Colombia's domestic bean, rice, and wheat production. Then came "Plan Colombia", which he said has been "Plan for War." Since then over 4 million indigenous peasants have been displaced, ranking Colombia second in the world for internally displaced people. The increasing military and paramilitary in Colombia has been used to suppress the people and any opposition to the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, already signed by the governments of both countries and awaiting Congressional ratification. German said that approximately 90 percent of the parliamentary members are affiliated with the paramilitaries, which makes engaging the democratic process in Colombia virtually worthless. "Once the FTA is passed," German said, "We will be forced to cultivate bitter yucca, sugar cane, and palm oil using genetically modified technology for transnational corporations." The growing demand for biofuels is driving an insane agenda where the emphasis is on more fuel for cars than to feed humans. German told us that there was tremendous opposition in Colombia to the FTA, and reminded us that there was resistance movements that needed the organizing of the people across borders to stop the neoliberal free trade regime.

Bill Christensen, a fourth generation family farmer from Missouri, started his talk by reminding us that the free trade agenda is driven by multinational corporations. Most of the beef in the United States, which has become a contentious issue in the Korea US Free Trade Agreement, is produced by corporations, not family farmers. "Someone is benefiting from NAFTA and the FTAs," Christensen said, "but not family farmers in the United States." He said that a combination of bad farm bill and broken trade policies makes for a disastrous scenario for U.S. family farmers where the trade surplus has now shrunk to a deficit. He pointed to the winners: In the first year of NAFTA, the agribusiness corporate moguls Archer Daniels Midland had grown their profits from $110 million to $300 million, and Cargill had grown their profits from $468 million to $827 million. And despite the promises of the free traders that these agreements will lower our food costs, Christensen informed us that since NAFTA the price of food has increased by 27% and the money paid to farmers per dollar dropped from $0.32 to $0.19. "The production of fruits, vegetables and meats would not be possible without immigrants," Christensen said, "They are the ones growing our food."

Last but not least, Sin Moon Hee, the General Secretary of the Korean Womens' Peasants Alliance, began by thanking KAWAN for inviting not just a peasant, but a woman peasant, to come to the US Social Forum to share their struggle against the Korea-US FTA. She began by giving some context to the current US-Korea relations. When North and South Korea signed their historic agreement on June 15 2000 where they committed to begin reunification efforts, this frightened the U.S. and the challenge that reunification posed over its grip economically and militarily on the Korean peninsula. And like Colombia, when the IMF crisis swept through South Korea, the country was forced to open its agricultural markets. As a result, over 50 percent of South Korean stocks are owned by foreign corporations and now over 50% of south Korean workers are irregular, meaning they dont have basic labor rights or pensions. As a a result, in the last 10 years, Korean peasants have been suffering and instead of investing in those who produce food for people, the government has chosen to add further insult to injury by offering the Korea-US FTA as a silver bullet to solve poverty and unemployment in Korea. This has led desperate peasants to take their lives. According to Moon-Hee, at least one peasant has taken their life daily. In 1990, South Korea had 10 million farmers. Today, she said that there is approximately 3 million. This is what unfettered free trade has done to the Korean farmers and the countryside. She told us that the South Korean government has been waging a fierce campaign in support of the FTA, despite the fact that there are millions opposed to this unfair trade deal. She said that one-third of parliamentarians are opposed to the deal and that there is a good chance that the Korea-US FTA can be defeated. "Are you going to have Cargill or Monsanto determine what you eat?" she asked. We need to honor those who grow our food, and this workshop demonstrated how farmers around the world--including in the U.S.--have had their lives, livelihoods, and the environment devastated under the free trade regime.

Lastly, I went with Sin Moon Hee to the Via Campesina caucus meeting at the migrant rights tent. It was a great opportunity for her to see the number of peasants and farmworkers sitting together under that tent. She was also very moved, she told me, that whenever she lets other peasants know that she is from Korea, that their eyes light up with respect and admiration for how the Korean peasants and trade unionists have been waging a fierce opposition to the WTO and the bilaterals.

We must not forget that peoples' movements have managed to stop talks in Seattle, Cancun, and Hong Kong. Now we just need to stop the bilaterals which is the tactic used by the neoliberalists since the WTO is near collapse. We must keep the pressure on and as the US Social Forum motto says, "Another World is Possible, Another U.S. is Necessary."

More to come tomorrow. Peace.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

KAWAN is going to the US Social Forum - June 27, 2007-July 1, 2007

The following workshops have been organized by KAWAN, see you in Atlanta!

Thursday, June 28, 2007
"Countering the Bilateral Free Trade Strategy" 1PM - Workshop,` Centennial Ballroom, Atlanta Marriott Downtown

Friday, June 29, 2007
KAWAN Caucus, 10:30 AM at Atlanta Ballroom H, Westin Hotel

Saturday, June 30, 2007
"Fighting US Militarism in the Asia Pacific Region" 1PM at Balcony Left room, Atlanta Civic Center

"Approaches to Organizing on Trade" 1 PM International B Room at the Westin Hotel

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anti-Korea/US FTA Events in DC

A 3-day series of events highlighting the opposition to Korea-US FTA included a public forum on 6/11 ("People's Forum on KORUS FTA: Fighting for Our Jobs, Health, Environment and Human Rights"), sponsored by Korean Americans for Fair Trade, AFL-CIO, Alliance for Responsible Trade, 50 Years is Enough Network, and a Congressional Lobby Day on 6/12, with participants from Korea, Seattle, San Francisco, Oregon, Vermont, New York, and Virginia. Related events were held in San Francisco (6/8-9) and in Harlem, New York City (6/14).

Five US Congressmen (Phil Hare, Michaud, Lipinsky, Braley, Walter Jones) spoke against the Korea-US FTA during the press conference at the Cannon House Building on 6/13, along with delegates from the Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA, Korean Confederation of Trade
Unions, Korean Government Employees Union, Korean Metal Workers Union, AFL-CIO and Korean Americans for Fair Trade. A Congressional briefing on the impact of Korea-US FTA took place following the press conference.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Democratic Leadership Turn Their Backs on Labor and Progressives

Democratic Leadership Turn Their Backs on Labor and Progressives

By Young Choe*

It’s been over 120 days since Democrats regained control over Congress, but one could hardly tell by the recent trade deal struck between the Democratic leadership with the Bush administration. Democrats have stayed the course on some promises made during the mid-term elections, like securing a timetable for withdrawing troops, but on the issue of trade, which rocked the vote and mobilized the masses, the Democratic leadership has turned their backs on the working class and progressives who put them in power.

The Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Ways and Means Chair Charles Rangel, and Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus, struck a deal with the Bush administration that lobbyists for multinational corporations are declaring will pave the way for Congress to pass four bilateral trade agreements, including Panama, Peru and Korea, and extend Fast Track authority to President Bush.

“Pending U.S. free trade agreements will be amended to incorporate key Democratic priorities,” read a press release from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi trumpeting this compromise, which was then substantiated with vague rhetoric on fair trade, workers’ rights and environmental protections. I'm really glad that Pelosi is against things that most Americans agree are bad, like child and slave labor. But saying that core labor and environmental standards will be included—but not enforced—in agreements that just expand the failed NAFTA model is an affront to the auto workers who will be laid off in Detroit. We haven’t actually seen the legislation, but if statements by K Street lobbyists are accurate, the compromise fails to grant unions the right to go to courts to demand the enforcement of labor laws while granting multinational corporations greater rights to sue sovereign local, state and federal governments for laws that protect us.

Worse, if Democrats extend Fast Track to President Bush, they will not only sign over to this lawless president the exclusive right to negotiate massive trade deals. They will never realize the trade agenda put forth by freshmen Democrats and their progressive colleagues who have consistently demanded a “trade policy which will work for America’s working families, farmers, businesses, the environment and our local communities.”

As a Korean American, I don't want to pit American workers versus, say, Korean workers. The Korean Metalworkers Union is just as opposed to the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement as the UAW, and both view this trade agreement as an opportunity for multinational corporations to reap more off the backs of working people of both nations. In this globalized economy, workers are forced to build solidarity across national borders as the landscape is not so clearly drawn: the U.S. automaker GM owns South Korean Daewoo Motors, and Hyundai sets up shop in the South, where labor is not as strong as in Detroit. Workers in South Korea and the United States also share in common their struggle against ever encroaching multinational corporate power over the democratic process.

Ever since the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement negotiations began, it has been shrouded in secrecy, and the deal made by the Democratic leadership with the Bush Administration is more of the same. Americans have heard virtually nothing of this trade agreement, even though it is set to be the second largest trade deal since NAFTA. Six weeks after U.S. and South Korean negotiators claimed a deal, not only has the text still not been released to the public, the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership are attempting to finalize a deal even before the text has been released to the American and Korean public!

It has been well-documented that the Roh Moo-Hyun government has quashed dissent by shutting down public hearings, denying the airing of an advertisement produced by peasants and filmmakers about the dangers of the FTA, and outlawing public protest of the FTA. The government broke into nine regional offices of the Korea Alliance Against the Korea-US FTA (KoA), arrested trade unionists and movement leaders, and deployed police violence using clubs and water cannons against protestors. As trade negotiators frenetically worked to sign the trade deal minutes before the April 1 deadline, Heo Seowook, a 54-year old South Korean taxicab driver, set himself on fire in protest of the FTA. Over one week later, he died from second-degree burns. This act of sacrifice symbolizes the desperation felt by working people around the globe due to spiraling housing and health costs, and anxieties over wages and job security--desperation to be further worsened by FTAs. In their imaginary world, free traders tout the miracles of neoliberal economics. In the real world, free trade has consistently hurt ordinary workers and farmers around the world.

For far too long American workers have trusted Democrats to put forth a trade agenda that protects us from corporate piracy, only to be reminded time and again that many Democrats are beholden to the very same corporations controlling Republicans. In 2006, 37 brand new Democrats were elected on a fair trade platform that gave Democrats the majority in Congress. The buzz in Washington is that the freshmen democrats are hard at work to fulfill their campaign promises. It’s time for the Democratic base—labor and progressives—to remind the Democratic leadership that they must be held accountable to the people that gave them power and stop ceding it to the Republicans and corporations driving the free trade agenda.

* Young Choe works at the Nodutdol for Korean Community Development in Queens, New York and is a member of Korean Americans for Fair Trade.

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.

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on the Proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

April 2, 2007

Working people in the United States and South Korea join today in vigorously opposing the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), and we will send a powerful message to the U.S. Congress and the Korean Parliament that any trade agreement between our countries must protect the fundamental rights of workers and contribute to the creation of good jobs in both countries.

The agreement, which is the largest since the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), will not benefit the working people of the United States or South Korea. The AFL-CIO along with our Korean union counterparts, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) strongly oppose any agreement that will hurt working families, farmers, and domestic producers in both countries. This flawed deal contains no enforceable protections for core workers’ rights, and it will undermine both governments’ ability to provide affordable and high-quality public and social services, and to protect food safety, the environment, and public health.

Our governments rushed through negotiations and announced the deal late last night, after a 48-hour extension of the negotiating deadline. Issues important to working families in both countries clearly have been railroaded over. It’s inexplicable that the Bush Administration would put forth a trade agreement with no enforceable protections for workers’ rights at a time when there is broad acknowledgement in the U.S. Congress that trade agreements must uphold core workers’ rights.

This agreement is likely to exacerbate and accelerate the loss of good jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector, especially in autos, apparel, and electronics. We already have a $14 billion trade deficit with South Korea – almost $12 billion of that in autos and auto parts. This deal will likely jeopardize tens of thousands of U.S. auto jobs – opening the U.S. auto market further, while failing to address the array of formal and informal barriers to the sale of U.S. automobiles in South Korea. Unfortunately, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) rejected the very sensible proposal put forward by a bipartisan group of members of Congress to tie any opening of the U.S. auto market to concrete benchmarks in U.S. auto sales in Korea. We have little confidence that our negotiators have successfully addressed the enormous imbalance in auto trade with traditional tariff-lowering proposals.

While details of the agreement have not yet been made public, we are deeply concerned at press reports that the FTA includes market access benefits for products made in the industrial zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. Workers in Kaesong have no ability whatsoever to exercise their basic human rights to freedom of association, to organize, and to bargain collectively. They are essentially indentured servants of the North Korean government – not allowed to collect wages directly from their South Korean employers, but paid only by the North Korean government after arbitrary and excessive deductions. It is completely unacceptable for products made under these repressive conditions to receive preferential access to the U.S. market.

Finally, this deal does not incorporate enforceable protections for the ILO core labor standards, but includes instead only a weak provision that the countries must each enforce their own labor laws. Countries may weaken their labor laws at any time without penalty.

The KORUS FTA does not reflect the proposals on workers’ rights, environmental protections, investment, procurement, and prescription drugs put forward by House Democrats recently. Those proposals reflect widely shared concerns, and members of Congress should reject any agreement that does not fully incorporate them.

San Diego Union-Tribune, April 3, 2007: Democracy Loses in Korea Trade Pact

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Declaration and Pledge to Oppose the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement
Go to the link above to sign the on-line petition.

Join Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN)* and the Korean Alliance Against the Korus FTA (KoA) In Waging a Global Hunger Strike Against the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KorUS FTA) and the Bush Free Trade Agenda.

The United States and South Korean governments are frantically working around the clock to sign the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KorUS FTA) by April 2, when it must be submitted to Congress for a vote by July 1. If signed, the KorUS FTA will be the second largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In South Korea, tens of thousands of farmers, workers, and students are organizing for a massive demonstration on March 25, 2007. Since Monday, March 19, over 100 people have been waging a hunger strike in Seoul and other cities across the country. On Monday March 26th, then number of hunger strikers will grow to 1000.

We ask for your solidarity in stopping the KorUS FTA and all Bush FTAs.

The March 25 massive demonstration is organized by the Korean Alliance against Korea-US FTA (KoA), a coalition of over 300 organizations representing millions of trade unionists, peasants, students, environmental and public health advocates. March 25 is the day of international action to stop the KorUS FTA, all Bush FTAs, and the spread of corporate-led globalization. The U.S. is now negotiating free trade deals with several countries, including Peru, Colombia, Panama, South Korea, and Thailand.

In solidarity allies in the United States and around the world will wage a 36 hour global hunger strike to oppose the KorUS FTA and the free trade regime that is destroying our livelihoods, our communities, our human rights and our environment. The hunger strike will be timed with South Korea’s 3 pm, March 25 (the start of the mass mobilization) through 3 am, March 27 (just after the end of first day of the 1000 person hunger strike.) For the reference of those in the U.S., this is 2 am, March 25 through 2 pm March 26 Eastern Standard Time and 11 pm, March 24 through 11 am March 26 Pacific Daylight Time.

March is the critical month in the fight to stop all pending U.S. FTAs from conclusion. Unfettered free trade has been directly responsible for the massive loss of jobs and erosion of hard-won benefits and rights for workers, farmers, and laws protecting our public health and environment. Wholly undemocratic, the only voices heard behind closed negotiation doors are that of corporate interests.

Join us for this 36-hour global hunger strike! We will send Korea the solidarity list by Saturday, March 24 for KoA to read at the March 25 mass demonstration. For more information, call: 718.335.0419 or email:

*Founded in April 2006, KAWAN is a national coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations endorsed by hundreds of immigrant, people of color, LGBT, farmers’, workers’, women’s, national liberation, anti-war and anti-globalization groups. For each of the eight rounds of negotiations between the U.S. and Korea, we have waged protests and resistance with our Korean allies. We have held forums, held direct action and civil disobedience and engaged in lobbying and advocacy efforts.

Thursday, March 01, 2007



WHAT: Reportback from KAWAN-Bay Area members who participated in the week of protests, actions, and solidarity events opposing the 7th round KOREA-USA Free Trade Agreement.

- Screening of film shorts from 16 Takes on Korean Society (2006)
- Slide show presentations
- First hand accounts, updates, upcoming actions, and more!


WHERE: 522 Valencia (@ 16th St)
San Francisco, CA
[1 block from 16th/Mission BART]

Sponsored by Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Images from the Seventh Round FTA Struggle in DC

Opening Press Conference (2/11/07) in front of the negotiation site (Washington Court Hotel near the Capitol).

Opening March through the streets of Washington, DC -- from Malcolm X Park to Adams Morgan community area to Lafayette Park near the White House. Many supporters and allies joined the march.

Marching towards the White House.

"Changing of the guards ceremony" of all-night vigil teams. Despite the frigid cold, the protesters maintained a 24-hour vigil.

American workers from the AFL-CIO and Change to Win joined in a joint rally (2/12/07) in front of the negotiation site.

The Korean delegation asks for the delivery of open letter to the negotiators...

but was blocked entry into the hotel by the police...

... with rough handling of protesters by the police.

Congressional Briefing ("US and Korean Civil Society Voice Deep Concerns Over Potential US Korea FTA," 2/13/07) co-sponsored by AFL-CIO, Korean Americans for Fair Trade (KAFT) and Korean Alliance against KorUS FTA, drew many Congressional staffers and the media. Representatives from Korea and KAFT visited Congressional offices to discuss concerns regarding the Korea-US FTA.

Freezing snow came down upon the protesters during the late night, but the group maintained high spirit through singing and creative chanting. Supporters and allies brought hot coffee, soup and blankets and gave encouraging solidarity messages.

Press Conference/Rally (2/14/07) in front of the Korean Embassy in protest of Amb. Lee Tae-shik's statement: "If Korean Americans can eat American beef, why can't Koreans?"

Down, Down, US beef!
Group photo at the Closing Rally -- a stong gust of cold wind did not deter the determination of this hardy group. See you in Seoul...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

NYC Community Forum on Free Trade and Our Countries: Saturday, February 17

what does this mean for all of us?

What is Free Trade doing to our home countries, our people? How does this affect immigrants and immigration? What is Congress doing - and what can we do about it?

Speakers from Latin America, Korea, labor and political representatives and more!
With: organizing strategies for social economic justice here and abroad. Be part of the struggle: see how you can help!

Consuelo Ahumada – Prof. Javeriana University
Ana MarĂ­a Archila – Dir. Latin America Integration Center
Carlos Bernales – Journalist
Sukyung Chang – E.D., Korean Alliance Against the Korea-US FTA (KoA)
David Edeli – Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
Moderators: Mario Murillo and Deepa Fernanades of WBAI Pacifica

Saturday, February 17th
12:30 - 3 PM
Renaissance Charter School
35-59 81st Street
Jackson Heights NY
(Take #7 train to 82nd St or F, G, R, V to 74 St. and change to #7 . Walk one block to 37th Ave. )
Refreshments served.

For more information, contact:
Spanish (347) 546-3170
English (917) 685-1044
Korean (646) 283-3696.

Sponsored by:
Hon. H. Monserrate Dist. 21, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Committee for Social Justice in Columbia, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement-NYC, Latino Initiative for Better Resources & Empowerment, Movement for Peace in Colombia., New Immigrants for Community Empowerment, NY People's Referendum on Free Trade, Korean- Americans for Fair Trade, Korean-Americans Against War And Neo-liberalism, Polo Democratico Alternativo NY-NJ-CT, SEIU 1199, SEIU 32BJ, Working Families Party

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Workday Minnesota, February 13, 2007: U.S., Korean activists protest bad trade deal

DC 7th Round Day Two

From a KAWAN delegate who is currently in DC:

We've had a successful action on Monday, the second day of the negotiations- a civil disobedience that was somewhat not so civil. We attempted to enter the Washington Court Hotel, and wound up in a scuffle with the police- (we tried to run in and they physically threw us out, no real fights) Even though some protestors planned to get arrested (for minor charges only) the police did not arrest us. But we did create some visible tension that was picked up by the media. (tho it was mostly Korean) without the hassle of going through arrests. To listen to a sound bite go to:
We wound up staying overnight at our hotel in Virginia, splittin' time between two shifts.
Tonight, as I write this in the relative comfort of the hotel room, the rest are out in sleet and snow, protesting in front of the Washington Court Hotel. I have my heat turned off in solidarity, tho I am going under the covers soon.
Will have pictures and links up soon- I need to pass out for now.

Solidarity Action in Burlington, Vermont

Students and Workers to deliver Valentines message to Vermont's Congressional Delegation:
"Don't Break My Heart with the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement"

Date: Wednesday, February 14th
Time: 9:30am
Place: Senator Leahy's office, 199 Main Street
Contact: Helaine Alon, Students for Peace & Global Justice, 617 513 3536
Jonathan Kissam, Vermont Workers' Center, 802 343 1705

Burlington, VT - On Valentine's day, students from UVM's Students for Peace and Global Justice, the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) and members of the Vermont Workers' Center - Jobs With Justice will deliver hundreds of Valentines to the offices of Vermont's Congressional delegation, urging them to oppose the proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

"The US-Korea Free Trade Agreement would be an extension of the failed NAFTA model that has been disastrous for workers, farmers and the environment," said Jonathan Kissam of the Vermont Workers' Center.

As preconditions to the talks, the Bush administration has demanded that South Korea lower its auto emissions standards and suspend a program which had successfully lowered the cost of prescription drugs. "We need to move forward on climate change and access to affordable medicines, not backwards," notes UVM student Helaine Alon.

Negotiators from the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the Republic of Korea are meeting this week in Washington, D.C., for the seventh and possibly final round of negotiations. If signed and approved by Congress, it will be the largest free trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Korea is the world's eleventh-largest economy, with a GDP of $787.6 billion in 2005, slightly larger than Mexico's.

More information on the US-Korea free trade agreement is available from the Korea Policy Institute,

Monday, February 12, 2007


February 11 through March 1: Fair Trade Solidarity Film Screenings Encouraged

February 11, 2007. Students, workers, farmers including: a South Korean delegation from the Korean Alliance Against the KorUS FTA (KoA), the Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU), Federation of Korea Trade Unions (FKTU) and Korean-Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN) and Korean Americans for Fair Trade (KAFT) will be working tirelessly this week on series of events that will coincide with the 7th round of KoreaUS Free Trade talks being held in Washington, DC.

In order to demonstrate our transnational solidarity for fair trade that supports creativity and cultural diversity, we're asking you to hold a solidarity film screening in your community sometime between now and March 1st. Don't let these administrations fast-track an undemocratic process to free trade. Check out the no KORUS FTA myspace page and let us know where/when you are holding your screening and/or forum: or email:

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)

DC 7th Round Day One

The seventh round of FTA negotiations in Washington DC has officially begun. A delegation of activists from South Korea (ncluding members of the Korean Alliance Against the KorUS FTA, Korea Peasants League, Korean Advanced Farmers Federation, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Korean Cattle Ranchers Association, Korean Metal Workers Union, Korean Women Against US Occupation, and others) and the US (members of KAWAN, Justice Committee, Audre Lorde Project, International Action Center, ANSWER Coalition, Queer People of Color Liberation Project, and others) have arrived in Washington DC in conjunction with the negotiations have arrived and begun this struggle for this 7th and final round of negotiations.

Summary of the day's events:
At 9:30 AM, we held an opening press conference in front of the Washington Court Hotel with Korean and US major media outlets.
At 1 PM, we kicked off the week formally with an opening rally and march beginning at Malcom X Park and ending at Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Speakers and performers at the rally included representatives from an array of grassroots organizations resisting the KorUS FTA from South Korea and around the country. After the rally, the delegation moved to the Washington Court Hotel, the site of the negotiations, to pitch two tents where activists against the FTA will maintain a continuous symbolic and strategic presence throughout the week of negotiations in a show of opposition to the undemocratic nature of the official talks.

Throughout the week, we will be engaging in a mix of advocacy efforts, direct action, and other tactics to demonstrate our resistance to the KorUS FTA. DOWN DOWN FTA!

Tomorrow's agenda (all and sundry are invited to participate):
9 AM: Rally in front of the Washington Court Hotel
!2 PM: Joint rally with Change to Win, AFL-CIO, KAWAN (Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism), KoA (Korean Alliance Against the KorUS FTA), and KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions)
Afternoon and evening: Creative actions.

Stay tuned for the rest of the week!


Saturday, February 10, 2007

News From Korean Alliance Against KorUS FTA

Protest Delegation Sets off for Washington D.C.

On February 10, a Korean Protest Delegation made up of representatives from workers, farmers, cultural and social movement organizations left Incheon Airport for the United States. at 3:05pm. The group's mission is to protest the Korea-US FTA negotiations, which will go into their 7 th round from Feb. 11 to 14 at the Hyatt Regent in Washington, D.C. This is not the first time that such a group has gone to the U.S. Since the 2nd round of talks were held in D.C. in June of last year, the Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA, a coalition of over 300 groups in South Korea, has organized protest delegations of this kind to send each time the FTA negotiations are held abroad. Korean delegations have now protested in D.C., Seattle and Montana during the first, third and fifth round of talks. The second, fourth and sixth rounds were held in South Korea.

This 7th round of talks is especially significant. The negotiators from both countries are racing to reach an agreement in time to submit it to the U.S. Congress before the U.S. president's Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) expires on July 1 st. TPA authorizes the president to sign an agreement before Congress sees it and then requires that Congress vote it up or down with out amendment. Because trade legislation must be submitted to Congress at least 90 days in advance of a vote, the Korea-US FTA must be concluded by the end of March to meet the deadline. Although Kim Jong-hoon, chief negotiator for the Korean side as mentioned the possibility of an 8 th round, both sides are hoping to make significant progress, if not conclude a deal this week.

Predicting that large concessions will be made in order get an agreement signed, the Korean protest delegation and American-based organizations are changing their tactics to meet the situation. Besides standard rallies, street demonstrations and vigils, they will hold an overnight tent protest for the entire span of the negotiations. Advocacy work on Capitol Hill is also planned in anticipation that the agreement will be concluded. The protest delegates will throw all their energy into raising awareness about the FTA, which they say is 'unfair trade' that will cost jobs and increase social polarization in both countries, from the streets to the briefing rooms.

But the protest delegations have had results other than just strengthening FTA-sentiment. The Koreans have also built a strong solidarity with Korean Americans, in particular the national organization Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN). KoA and KAWAN have now been working together for nine months to carry out the anti-FTA struggle on both sides of the Pacific. In addition, exchanges have occurred and solidarity built with other immigrant, people of color and queer communities and labor organizations in the U.S. who are fighting neoliberalism. "I have a lot of expectations," said Soo-kyung Jang, Executive Director of the Women's Committee of KoA. "Personally I am looking forward to meeting the brothers and sisters I met in Seattle and sharing ideas about solidarity."

Protest will also occur in Seoul, South Korea at the same time as they are going on in D.C. KoA has planned events through the week, including a large rally and prayer protest this Monday, but has been denied permits, even for peaceful demonstrations. In fact, the South Korean government has enforced a ban on all FTA protests since last November, actively seeking to quell anti-FTA sentiment. Organizers, undaunted, say they will go ahead with their plans and call the government's ban a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Opening rally in DC: February 11

Join us for a Week of Protest Against
the 7th Round of Korea-US FTA Negotiations

Sunday, Feb. 11 – 14, 2007, Washington, DC

(to coincide with the talks)

Gather for an Opening March and Rally

1 PM, Sunday, February 11

Malcolm X Park, Washington, DC

(at 16th and Euclid Streets, NW)

New York Folks: Ride the Down Down FTA Bus to DC for the Opening March and Rally

Meet on the east side of Union Square
btw. 15th and 16th Streets at
7:30 am, Sun. 02-11-07
Return time: about 10:30 pm
Suggested donation $25
(We won’t turn folks away)
To reserve a seat email
or call 646.342.9673


For more info call (718) 335-0419 or email

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Free Trade = Injustice: Event in DC on Feb. 3

Please circulate widely

For more info call (718) 335-0419, email or go to

DOWN with all Free Trade Deals!

Free Trade = Injustice:
a Film and Forum on the Struggle to Oppose the Colombia and Korea-US FTAs


WHERE: The Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd. NW (Green to Columbia Heights. Exit near intersection of Irving St NW and 14th St NW and go south on 14th St towards Columbia Rd.)

WHAT: Film screening of "Down Down FTA!" (about the anti-KorUS FTA struggle in Seattle) and teach-in on the US' Free Trade agenda with South Korea and Colombia. What will their impact be on the people of all three countries? What are the status' of the negotiations? What are we doing to resist?

With speakers from Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism and Polo Democratico Alternativo (progressive political party of Colombia.)

Also learned about the up-coming week of protest against the KorUS FTA. Feb. 11 -14, and how you can join.

WHY: Free trade policies such as these 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 in fact they only support elite classes and the governments they back. NAFTA sent formerly high paying manufacturing jobs to Mexico, forced Mexican subsistence farmers to the cities, drove wages and working conditions, leading many to risk their lives immigrating to the U.S. South Korean, Colombian and U.S. farmers and workers will suffer the same results it the KorUS and Colombia-US FTAs pass.

Sponsored by Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a U.S. coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations endorsed by over 100 immigrant, people of color, LGBT, farmers', workers', women's, national liberation, anti-war and anti-globalization groups from around the country.

Foreign Policy in Focus, January 24, 2007: Postcard from...Seoul

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

KorUS FTA 7th Round

Down with the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement

Down with Fast Track and all Free Trade Deals

Protect Workers, Farmers, the Environment and Peoples’ Right to Sovereignty and Democracy

The 7th and Final Round of KorUS FTA Negotiations is almost upon us!!


When: Sunday, Feb. 11 – 14, 2007 (to coincide with the talks)
Where: Washington, DC and Virginia

PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY. For more info call (718) 335-0419 or email

The U.S. and South Korean governments began FTA negotiations in June, 2006. Now they are in a race to finish at the expense of democratic process and the lives of millions.

Join peasant, labor, and community leaders from South Korea to protest neoliberal globalization.

WHAT: During the 7th and final week of negotiations, delegations of U.S. and Korean protesters will join forces to oppose the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. The week will include rallies, vigils, marches, direct actions and solidarity events. Give us a call NOW to find out how you can get involved and look out for updates with specific times and places in the coming weeks (

WHO: This week of protest is sponsored by;
The Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA (KoA), a South Korean coalition of 280 organizations
Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a U.S. coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations endorsed by close to 100 immigrant, people of color, LGBT, farmers’, workers’, women’s, national liberation, anti-war and anti-globalization groups from around the country.

WHY: Free trade policies such as this 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 in fact they only support elite classes and the governments they back. NAFTA sent formerly high paying manufacturing jobs to Mexico, forced Mexican subsistence farmers to the cities, drove wages and working conditions, leading many to risk their lives immigrating to the U.S. South Koreans and U.S. farmers and workers will suffer the same results it the KorUS FTA passes.

KoA and KAWAN’s joint protests began during the first round of talks in Washington, DC, June 2006. In July we followed the negotiators to the second round in Seoul, where over a hundred thousand people protested in the streets. The struggle then went to Seattle for the 3rd round, then Jae Ju Island at the southern tip of Korea and then a ski resort in Montana. This week protesters are taking the streets in Seoul to protest the talks for the 6th time. The South Korean and US governments have announced that the 7th will be the final round. It’s time to go all out. So get ready.

· KoA’s English website
· KAWAN's blog
·, a progressive website about bilateral trade and investment agreements
· News article on protests in Seattle in September

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pyeongtaek Solidarity Statement: Signed by Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky was the first to sign this recently written statement of solidarity with Pyeongtaek farmers:

We stand in solidarity with Pyeongtaek farmers

We stand in solidarity with the people of Daechuri and Doduri, South Korea who are protecting their homes, land, and livelihood from the U.S. military. We believe that the U.S. military must cease and desist its forced eviction of Pyeongtaek farmers. We demand that the governments of South Korea and the U.S. review and re-negotiate the planned expansion of the U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek.
The South Korean government should immediately withdraw all military troops from Daechuri and Doduri, allow the villagers to enter their fields, and retract its plan for the destruction of houses and villages. The government must also make a public apology to the public for committing violence against its people and immediately release all prisoners. In addition, the South Korean government should reverse its agreement to the U.S. military “strategic flexibility” plan, of which the Pyeongtaek base expansion is a result. This shift toward “strategic flexibility” in U.S. military policy will only strengthen U.S. imperial ambitions in East Asia and threaten to unleash a crisis of war in the region.
The forcible displacement of Pyeongtaek farmers violates the housing rights specified in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights, and the freedoms of body, of residence and transfer, of expression and of association as specified in the International Covenant on Civil and Politic Rights. The Korean government is party to both of these agreements. Already hundreds of people have been injured by South Korean riot police and hired thugs, simply for protecting themselves and their land from the impending social, cultural, economic, and environmental destruction caused by yet another U.S. military base.


Noam Chomsky

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.