Saturday, 19 November 2011

Candlelight Vigil on 19th November

Today, over 2,500 people came to the City Hall Square in Seoul and cried out against the Korea-US FTA. Here are some pictures.


Water Cannon Crackdown on Anti-Korea-US FTA Protesters

During a peaceful march near the National Assembly building on 10th November 2011, the police force aimed directly at the protesters and shoot out a powerful stream of water. Watch how strong it was. This caused one's eardrum ruptured and severals fallen down to the street.


For more detailed story, click here and Hani News.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Water Cannon Shooting Protesters

Police aimed water cannons directly at citizens during a peaceful protest against the Korea-US FTA.


Officials from National People’s Movement and Human Rights Joint Meetings claimed one participant in the protest was hit with the water cannon by the police and passed out with her eardrum ruptured. They urged the police authorities to find and punish those responsible and immediately apologize for its excessive use of force.
“I was sent to the hospital after being struck with water cannon. Doctors told me my eardrum was ruptured from being pressured with enormous force,” said Park Hee-jin, representative of the Korean Youth Solidarity. “The police blasted powerful water cannon directly aiming in short distance at the citizens. They are supposed to protect people, but they chose to harm us, instead.”
“The rallies were proceeding peacefully but disrupted abruptly with the use of water cannons. I was also hit with the shots and fell to the ground,” said Korean Alliance of the Progressive Movements Chairwoman Lee Gwang-sil.
The two groups said they plan to bring legal charges against those in the police accountable for the damage during the protest. (http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/505506.html)








Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Stand in Solidarity with the 99% in Korea

Stand in Solidarity with the 99% in Korea

What: An international day of solidarity with the 99% in Korea against the US-Korea trade deal, the biggest job-killing agreement of its kind since NAFTA.

When: Tuesday, November 22, 2011. Day or Night.

How: Gather fellow fair trade activists. March, hold up signs, pass out flyers, and/or stand united with our Korean friends in a candle-light vigil.

Where: In front of the Korean Consulates in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC—or any place where you can gather all your fellow fair trade activists and raise your voices against the Korea trade deal.

Call for Solidarity and Action

Call for Solidarity and Action - The Korea-US FTA is not for the 99%
November 16, 2011

Free Trade Agreements have a long history of mass protests. The Korea-US FTA is no different. Its official negotiation was kicked off in 2006 and signed five years ago in June 2007. From the outset of the negotiations, thousands of people in both countries have opposed the deal. One Korean labor union member took his own life in protest against the negotiations, and several hundreds of activists have been arrested during peaceful and legitimate demonstrations. They know that the deal only benefits big corporations, not the people. Nonetheless, the U.S. Congress approved the deal last month. Now the ball is in the court of the Korean National Assembly.

However, quite contrary to the expectation of both governments and proponents of the deal, a growing number of Koreans are opposing its approval.  Inspired by the Occupy movements around the world, the people in Korea have realized that this deal is not for the 99%, but it is only for the benefit of the 1%.

This agreement is not just limited to trade; it also impacts policies governing public services, public health, environment and the rights of citizens.  Under the name of trade liberalization, the agreement is very likely to jeopardize democratic policies that promote economic justice, alleviate poverty, regulate financial services, and promote healthy communities.  Negotiated and signed before the financial crisis of 2008, the Korea-US FTA continues the dangerous trend of financial deregulation that allowed fat cats on Wall Street to wreck the global economy.  Now, Wall Street wants to export that mistake to Korea, and in turn to other countries through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement currently being pursued by the Obama Administration.  As the U.S Trade Representative has said, the Korea-US FTA will become a model for trade agreements for the rest of the world.

We must stop this flawed deal.  We have to bring an end to FTAs that are killing jobs and deepening the social divide.  We can do this by asserting our power as the 99%.  Since mid-October, we have held a candlelight vigil every night in Seoul.  Every day more and more people join the movement.  Even young people have started to raise their candles and speak out against the FTA that is bad for their future. As the Korean people’s resistance intensifies, the voting of the Korean National Assembly has been delayed, which has embarrassed proponents of the FTA.  Meanwhile, the police enforcement against demonstrators has grown more violent.  They have aimed high-pressured water-cannons onto protesters, even causing the rupture of a protestor’s eardrums last Sunday.  More and more people are arrested during legitimate demonstrations.

But we will stand firmly against the approval of the flawed deal and never stop our fight.  We believe this is the right way to change the world.  We are confident that we can make another world.  Now, we invite you to join this history-making movement and take action in solidarity with the people of Korea on November 22nd for the International Day of Action against the Korea-US FTA.


###

Exchange of Letter between the USTR and the Korean

Recently the U.S. Trade Representative and the Korean Trade Minister exchanged a letter, which reflects the concerns raised by Korean law makers.

President Lee's Tricky Offer to the National Assembly

On 16th November, President Lee visited the National Assembly to persuade the lawmakers to pass a bill for the Korea-US FTA. The Democratic Party, the biggest opposition party, has called for the President to re-negotiate with the U.S. counterpart in advance and delete the Investor-State Dispute Settlement procedures from the FTA texts. In this unprecedent visit, President Lee offered that he would ask the U.S. government to reopen the negotiation table if the National Assembly approves the bill. But the President's offer is tricky because what he offered is not different from what the trade officials can do after the FTA comes into effect.

An editorial of KHan on the President's offer is here, reproduced below.

Yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak said that if the National Assembly ratifies the KORUS FTA, he would propose to the Americans the renegotiation of the Investor-State Dispute system (ISD) provisions, one of the biggest points of contention in the agreement, within three months of it going into effect. 

President Lee said this during a visit to the National Assembly, prefacing his comments with the words "if the National Assembly advises me to do so."

When pressed by the Democratic Party on how he would guarantee this, he said he would get the US government to agree to talks. We did not expect a new decision or proposal from the president, but we are still very disappointed in his sounding out the National Assembly's position on renegotiating the ISD provisions after the FTA goes into effect. 

President Lee's offer contains nothing new apart from the fact that it came directly from his mouth, and its effectiveness is by no means guaranteed. 

The president's approach of sounding out the National Assembly's position on renegotiating the ISD provisions after the FTA goes into effect is no different from the provisional plan that was recently agreed upon by the Grand National Party and a Democratic Party parliamentary delegation, but ran into trouble due to objections from the Democratic Party. 

The two parties agreed at the time that the Korean and American governments should form a service and investment committee within three months of the FTA going into effect; this committee would negotiate whether the ISD should be maintained, and report the results to the National Assembly within a year. 

What meaning is there in renegotiating whether to keep the ISD provisions, which have been criticized as handing over Korea's legal sovereignty to the United States, when the provisions have already been allowed to go into effect? 

We think Democratic Labor Party chairperson Lee Jung-hee got to the core of the problem when she observed that President Lee seems to want to enjoy the fruits of the FTA going into effect, while allowing the next administration to take responsibility from any problems that occur. 

The effectiveness of this measure is also questionable. The United States has not given any promise to renegotiate, and even if an assurance were given, there is nothing to be done if the American government decides not to accept it. 

Renegotiations are something a government is supposed to accept when a parliament suggests them. Concluding and amending treaties requires approval from the US Congress, not the US government. 

Every Tom, Dick, and Harry can tell that the president's offer is an approach that places getting the FTA into effect ahead of getting rid of or amending the ISD provisions. 

Following discussions, the Democratic Party's supreme council decided to reject the deal, but the Democratic Party should reflect on the fact that its exclusive focus on resolving the ISD matter has provided an excuse to Lee. 

President Lee's visit to the National Assembly has only confirmed once again his illusions regarding the KORUS FTA. 

To try---unlike the United States, which satisfied its interests by going so far as to hold additional negotiations---to get the KORUS FTA into effect by early next year simply because "the Americans have ratified it, so we should ratify it, too," even while the agreement has all sorts of poisonous articles besides the ISD that are ruinous to national sovereignty, is truly irresponsible. 

The self-righteousness and blindness of the president, who holds that the only patriotic position is in favor of the KORUS FTA, are simply staggering. 

Watching the members in the ruling party who wish to use the president's visit as a pretext for railroading the KORUS FTA through furtively nodding their heads, one could certainly guess the purpose of Lee's visit to the National Assembly. (Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News. Nov 16, 2011)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Brief History of Korea-US FTA

This timeline is reconstructed from that drafted by South Korean Government

Jun. 3, 2011 SK Government resummits the Korea-U.S. FTA bill to the National Assembly for ratification

May. 4, 2011 SKG withdraws the Korea-U.S. FTA bill from the Foreign Affairs, Trade & Unification Committee of the National Assembly. This was because SKG found around 300 errors in the Korean text of the bill.

Feb. 10, 2010 Signing and Exchange of the agreed documents on the December. 3, 2010 deal to the KORUS FTA

Nov. 30~Dec. 3, 2010 Trade Ministers' meeting (Columbia, Maryland, U.S.)

Apr. 22, 2009 The Foreign Affairs, Trade & Unification Committee passes the bill

Feb. 25, 2009 The Judiciary Subcommittee passes the bill

Oct. 10, 2008 SKG introduces the bill to the Foreign Affairs, Trade & Unification Committee of the National Assembly

Oct. 08, 2008 SKG resubmits the Korea-U.S. FTA bill to the National Assembly for ratification

May. 29, 2008 End of the 17th legislature term

Feb. 13, 2008 SKG introduces the bill to the Unification, Foreign Affairs & Trade Committee of the National Assembly

Sep. 07, 2007 SKG submits the Korea-U.S. FTA bill to the National Assembly for ratification

Jun. 30, 2007 Korea and the U.S. sign the Korea-U.S. FTA (Washington DC, U.S.)

Jun. 25~26, 2007 Additional consultations on the Korea-U.S. FTA (Washington DC, U.S.)

Jun. 21~22, 2007 Additional consultations on the Korea-U.S. FTA (Seoul, Korea)

May. 29~Jun. 06, 2007 Korea-U.S. FTA legal review meeting (Washington DC, U.S.)

Apr. 02, 2007 Conclusion of the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations

Mar. 26~Apr. 02, 2007 Trade Ministers' meeting (Seoul, Korea)

Mar. 19~22, 2007 Senior-level talks on the Korea-U.S. FTA (Washington DC, U.S.)

Mar. 08~12, 2007 8th round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Seoul, Korea)

Feb. 11~14, 2007 7th round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Washington DC, U.S.)

Jan. 15~19, 2007 6th round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Seoul, Korea)

Dec. 04~08, 2006 5th round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Montana, U.S.)

Oct. 23~27, 2006 4th round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Jeju, Korea)

Sep. 06~09, 2006 3rd round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Seattle, U.S.)

Jul. 10~14, 2006 2nd round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Seoul, Korea)

Jun. 27, 2006 Public hearing on the Korea-U.S. FTA

Jun. 05~09, 2006 1st round of Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations (Washington DC, U.S.)

Apr. 17~18, 2006 2nd meeting of the non-official preparatory consultation

Mar. 06, 2006 1st meeting of the non-official preparatory consultation

Feb. 03, 2006 Joint announcement on the launch of the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations












About KoA

Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA (KoA) is one of the largest umbrella body in South Korea, made up of over three hundreds organizations including trade unioins, farmers' groups, NGOs, students, and social movements groups to oppose the proposed Korea-US FTA (KorUS FTA). We aim to

  • reveal the true meaning and implications of FTA on people's daily life;
  • believe in mobilizing the masses, from bottom up, against the KorUS FTA and globalization;
  • work to coordinate and strengthen solidarity between diverse movements and sectors to stop the highly flawed KorUS FTA;
  • analyze the potential impacts the proposed KorUS FTA may bring about in our society; and
  • consolidate international solidarity with global movements against neoliberalism, WTO and FTAs.

Mass Protest on Nov. 13, 2011

Over 40,000 citizens and workers marched in mass protest to stop congressional approval of the Korea-US FTA.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Rally on Nov. 5, 2011

Over 5,000 people have taken to the streets in Seoul to oppose the approval of the Korea-US FTA by the National Assembly. The police force entirely surrounded the protesters and prevented further people from joining the rally.
 










Friday, 4 November 2011

Twelve Reasons Why We Should Oppose the Korea-US FTA

The 99% against the Korea-US FTA of the 1%.

<This is a text version of the leaflet we have been using for candlelight vigil taking place every night in Seoul. You can see PDF version of the original Korean leaflet here. Christian Park made this translation>

Without a doubt, the Korea-US FTA is an agreement only for the rich 1% and big businesses. It will increase the prices of medicines and medical fees jeopardizing the health care system. Once introduced, the Investor-State Dispute settlement (ISD) will prevent public regulators from curbing the corporate greed. The Korea-US FTA will privatize public corporations which will jack up the utility
fees. It is a one-way ticket to privatization. There is no turning back for privatized and unregulated public corporations even if prices go out of control. Any mechanism to protect small and medium businesses will be in violation of the Korea-US FTA and South Korea agriculture will collapse. The Korea-US FTA is good only for the rich 1% and the big businesses in the US and South Korea.

1. Skyrocketing prices of medicines and medical fees will threaten the health care system.

The Korea-US FTA will extend the patent delaying the introduction of low price generic drugs (approval-paten linkage). Moreover, it will allow multinational pharmaceutical companies to reject the price control by the government (independent review process). As a result, patients’ medical cost will go through the roof jeopardizing the health care budget. With the ratification of the Korea-US FTA, the conditional operation of for-profit hospitals in free economic zones in 20 cities will become permanent. The medical fees of for-profit hospitals are much more higher than that of not-for-profit hospitals. In the end, they will drive the entire medical cost up.

2. The Investor-State Dispute (ISD) will incapacitate public and welfare policies. 

They say the Korea-US FTA will not effect the public policies. Nothing could be farthest from the truth. According to the Korea-US FTA, multinational corporations can bring the South Korean government to the international arbitration tribunal to demand compensation. The South Korean government has no choice but to be dragged into a costly arbitration process. This is because of the automatic consent clause. The Canadian government was brought to the arbitration tribunal when it banned the disposal of hazardous wastes by designating green-belt zones.

The ISD system is not a universal mechanism. The current negotiation for the DDA at the WTO has rejected the adoption of ISD. If the ISD system is included in the Korea-US FTA, then the South Korean government has no choice but to accept the decision of the arbitration tribunal. If the government rejects the decision, then there will be trade retaliation. It would make the regulation
of corporations for public interest impossible. It will make a paradise for multinational corporations but greatly diminish the power of the South Korean government to implement public policies.

3. There will be a flood of privatizations and jack up the prices including utility fees.

In Cochabamba, Bolivia, a country with the minimum wage of $60, a monthly water bill skyrocketed to $20 after the privatization of the city water company.Residents of Cochabamba locked the water faucets in fear that children might use them and drank rainwater. One of the companies that belonged to the privatized water network, Bechtel, argued that even rain water should be charged since it belonged to them. During the crisis, the Bolivian government did not try to re-nationalize the water works in fear that it might be brought to the ISD system.

The South Korean government is planning to privatize railroads and gas. Once they are privatized, it is inevitable that the prices will rise. However, the government won’t be able to re-nationalize them once the Korea-US FTA is ratified because of ratchet mechanisms. South Korean ordinary working people are already suffering from high prices. Surely, the Korea-US FTA will further increase the utility fess.

4. There will be a massacre of local shops.

Even today, with one large retailer operated supermarket in the neighborhood most of local shops are forced to close. These so called super supermarkets like E-Mart and Homeplus compete with local shops and restaurants with low price products and foods. With the Korea-US FTA, these super supermarkets will thrive more with less regulations. What was once a dream for ordinary working people who are forced to retire early or lost jobs to opening a local shop or a pizzeria has become a nightmare.

5. Say goodbye to foreign currency control even in a time of foreign currency crisis.

When the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit South Korea foreign capitals quickly withdrew like an out-going tide. At such a time, a government can respond with financial safeguards like temporary limiting international transfers of foreign capitals. The Korea-US FTA make it clear that the pre-condition for any financial safeguard is that it will not harm commercial, economical, and financial interests of the US. Once in effect, the Korea-US FTA will make it impossible to control the flow of foreign currency even in a time of foreign currency crisis.

6. The Korea-US FTA will hurt South Korea’ trade balance.

What happened after the Korea-US FTA? South Korea’s trade surplus with the EU dropped by 3.7 billion dollars. They say that the Korea-US FTA will increase South Korea’s exports to the US. But the US is in an economic crisis. Millions of Americans are out of jobs and many lost their houses. The unemployment rate is stuck at 10%.

Even if we take the argument at face value, an increase of exports does not necessarily leads to more jobs or better life for ordinary working people. After the NAFTA, the US trade surplus increased but 700,000 jobs in the US were reduced. How about Mexico? Mexico’s exports increased also. However, the economic situations of ordinary working people worsened. Polarization increased to a point only 13 million out of the 40 million working age population
had full-time jobs. Big businesses and the rich got more rich while working people got poorer.

7. The Korea-US FTA destroys Korean agriculture.

Prices of US and EU agricultural products are the cheapest in the world. Simply, it is because the US and EU governments give the biggest subsidies in the world. The farmers in the US annually receive around 22 billion dollars from the US government in direct subsidies. This is incredible compared to the amount the Korean farmers are getting. Such huge subsidies help to keep the prices of US and EU agricultural products low making it impossible for others to follow. While this is the reality, the Korea-US FTA will force the reduction of agricultural tariffs. This will destroy Korean agriculture.

8. The Korea-US FTA destroys environment.

The US government stated four pre-conditions to the signing of the Korea-US FTA demanded. One of them is eliminating the tax levied to automobiles with high carbon dioxide emission. As a result, South Korea is forced to drop the environment protection policy that taxes automobiles with high carbon dioxide emission. This is going against the global efforts to stop global warming. One of the many deregulations is related to GMO foods.

9. The Korea-US FTA is an unfair and unequal agreement.

Article 102 of the US implementing bill on the Korea-US FTA makes it clear that US law comes first in cases where the Korea-US FTA comes into conflict with the former. In contrast, the Korea-US FTA comes first in cases of conflicts with Korean law. The Korea-US FTA is treated as a domestic law in South Korea. The
US implementing bill prohibits South Korean companies doing business in the US filing a legal suit in the US court in case of FTA related violation.

10. Integration of South Korea into the US-led world order will increase the regional tension in Northeast Asia.

The Korea-US FTA is not just an economic agreement. It will further integrate South Korea into the US-led world order politically and militarily. Northeast Asia is a highly volatile region where China and the US go head to head economically and militarily. The Korea-US FTA will only increase the tension. Will the strengthening of the military alliance between South Korea and the US bring peace in the region? Uncritical strengthening of the military alliance between South Korea and the US will bring more danger to the region and do harm to realizing peace in the Korean peninsula.

11. This FTA is only for the 1%.

The Korea-US FTA is not a battle between South Koreans and American. It is not only the US big businesses that are supporting the Korea-US FTA. Korean big businesses like jaebeols are welcoming it with open arms and actively promoting it in media advertisements. Why is this? Privatization of the public sector in
South Korea would bring huge profits not only to the US big businesses but also to the Korean big businesses. For example the privatization of healthcare would give profit-making opportunities to not only the US health insurance companies but also the Korean health insurance companies. Is this win-win for everyone?

What happens to the ordinary working people? Prices of all sorts of public sector goods like gas, electricity, railroad, etc. will increase. Prices of medicine and medical care will also go up jeopardizing the finance of the national health insurance. Mom and pop stores will go out of business. The number of precarious workers will increase. Free and organic school food service would be impossible. The Korea-US FTA will deepen the polarization giving more to the rich 1% while taking more from the 99%.

12. The 99% can stop the Korea-US FTA.

Should every country accept it unconditionally just because the US government is pushing for the FTA? The answer is no. The US government has already tried to sign an FTA with Latin America (FTAA). But it failed when confronted with the protests from the people of Latin America. Matter of fact, all the FTAs that the US
government initiated with countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia failed or are not going anywhere. There is an exception though. It is the Korea-US FTA. It is still alive. South Korea successfully blocked the full lift of the ban on the import of US beefs from cattle aged 30 or more months with the massive candlelight protests. If everyone stands up and say no to FTA, we can stop the Korea-US FTA. The 99% can stop the Korea-US FTA which is only for the 1%.