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MBC | Aug 9
South Korea has agreed to resume talks with North Korea over the closed Kaesong Industrial Zone. The joint project has been shuttered since April o...
In South Korea, small business owners and farmers are protesting the Korean government’s decision to ratify its free trade agreement with the United States. The FTA removes tariffs on imported American cars, allows U.S. apparel to be sold duty-free, and eliminates a 40% tax on U.S. beef. Contributor Yoo Eun Lee from Global Voices online has this report.
Yoo Eun Lee:
Rallies against the free trade deal were held almost daily in downtown Seoul. These pictures show the latest protests that brought out several thousands of people to scuffle with police. Last week more than 50,000 attended a special concert against the free trade agreement. Although police estimated a crowd at around 16,000, this YouTube video taken by a citizen journalist seems to show it was much bigger. The event was organized by South Korea’s most popular satirical podcast, "I’m a Petty-Minded Creep." South Koreans have accused the ruling Grand National Party of ramming up the bill through the parliament.
There were chaotic scenes of protest by the opposition. It’s charged the government hadn’t given proper notification before the final reading of the bill, and complained it took only four minutes to pass the complicated legislation.
The session was disrupted by tear gas and a smoke bomb thrown at the speaker’s chair.
Posts on Twitter condemned the government for clearly an "Anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic act." There has also been deep discontent with the mainstream media. One tweeter complains, "I cannot find news reports I need. The media has chosen not to report on anti-FTA protests- today as well."
The government and the ruling party say the free trade agreement is essential to keep the U.S. market open for South Korea’s export-driven economy. Opponents said that it will only benefit a handful of big corporations while killing small businesses and farmers.
Around 170 judges have signed a petition calling for renegotiation of the FTA, and plan to send it to the Supreme Court. They pointed out that this could undermine the nation’s judicial sovereignty. I’m Yoo Eun Lee for LinkAsia.
A few days ago, the hosts of a popular Korean political satire called "I’m a Petty-Minded Creep" visited the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York’s Zuccotti Park. The hosts believe that the free trade agreement will only benefit the top one percent of people. And to show their solidarity with the protesters, they bought pizza for 500 people.