Why Korean People Are Against KorUS FTA







  Byun Jeong-pil
International Coordinator, Korean Alliance against KorUS FTA
  The South Korean government announced in a sudden that it opens the negotiation on an FTA with the U.S. on 3 February 2006. For the FTA negotiations to even begin, the South Korean government had to implement a neo-liberal agenda to show its "seriousness" about the agreement to the United States. This included agreeing to the four preliminary steps. Those are "suspending regulation on pharmaceutical product prices (Oct. 2005), easing government regulation of gas emissions in imported U.S. cars (Nov. 2005), resuming importation of U.S. beef (Jan. 2006), reducing the compulsory South Korean film quota for cinemas from 146 days per year to 73 days (Jan. 2006)". These four preliminaries publicly disclosed as demands of the U.S. to open the negotiation are merely preludes to the destructive result of the proposed KORUS FTA and recently Korean president Roh Mu-hyun admitted the fact.
  Korean people are worried about the destructive result of the proposed FTA. We are keenly aware of the devastating results of NAFTA on the people of Canada, Mexico, and the United States even though the three governments had made many promises in improving the lives of the people in the three countries. The proposed KORUS FTA is on the same track. The Korean government has been propagating that it will create more jobs and will reduce the gap between the poor and the rich just like the promises given with the NAFTA; however, what the United States government demands in the FTA is nothing less than a 100% open-door policy from South Korea.
  We call the FTA as "Farmer Terror Action" because the FTA will also eliminate protection for South Korean farmers producing rice, the country's most important agricultural product. According to the statistics by the U.S. side, the agricultural production will be decreased by 45% after KorUS FTA has been agreed. It means half of Korean farmers will lose jobs and fall into urban poor.
  The KORUS FTA will give momentum to commercialize and privatize public services in South Korea as well. During the Korea-US Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations in 1998, which has been transformed to the on-going FTA, the U.S. government demanded the South Korean government to eliminate 'all the discriminatory restrictions against foreign capitals' on the public sectors just with five exceptions. Gas is already known as a main target of the KORUS FTA. Another target of the FTA would be medical pricing system for pharmaceutical businesses, especially based in the United States. It would undermine the access of people to medicine. Jobs and working conditions will be threatened by the KORUS FTA just like the way under the NAFTA. Cultural diversities will be in a crisis as well. The FTA will give a way to the Hollywood and big broadcasting capitals to dominate the South Korean market.
  Therefore, it will not serve the people's interests but benefits of the transnational capitals' in both countries since the FTA means merely the intensification of some form of neo-liberal policies.
  Protesters who consist of laborers, students and farmers are marching through Gwanghwamun Street on 12 July  
  The draft of the FTA issued by the South Korean government on May 15th is a proof of this.
  According to the draft summary of the KORUS FTA proposed by the South Korean government (released on May 15th, 2006), the contents are almost the same as the NAFTA. It includes 'investor-state claims' and 'prohibition of performance requirements', which pave the way for foreign investors to intervene in government policies and decisions, as well as undermining the government and people's rights to control. Even in the first negotiation, the demand of the U.S. has been found that its demand is even stronger than expected.
  I just want to mention one more point regarding the FTA. The Korean government accepted the Strategic Flexibilities of the American Forces in January 2006. With the FTA, the military alliance between two countries will be strengthened. And this will be justifying 'the US pre-emptive doctrine against terror.' South Korea will play a role as an outpost for the US to secure its political and military supreme power in East Asia. We must pay attention to the fact that the US has tried to contract an FTA where the political and military meaning is significant in every continent.
  As the negotiation process is pushed, it is getting clear that there is no concern of the people but the trans-nationals' interests. The Korean government even disguised as if the 2nd talks were failed to get peoples' support. This is the confession of the government that the FTA is totally against Korean people. The peoples' voices must be heard. We, the Korean people, are saying that we do not want the Korea-US FTA in the context of neo-liberal globalization threatening people's livelihood!
Observer  yno1@ynu.ac.kr
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