Down with the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement!
In February 2006, the George Bush and Roh Moo-hyun Administrations began to negotiate a US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Farmers, workers, major film and television actors, unions, non-profits, church groups, student groups, academic associations, and millions of others throughout South Korea overwhelmingly oppose the FTA. We join our voices with theirs.
A US-South Korea FTA, if ratified, will have a devastating impact on the people of Korea. Here are just a few of the reasons we must join together to stop the US-SK FTA:
- Rice is at the heart of Korean farming and Korean culture. Many of South Korea’s 3.5 million small rice farmers, already struggling, will be forced into bankruptcy by corporate agribusiness dumping their products, destroying Korea’s long heritage of rice cultivation. By getting rid of tariffs in South Korea but not of US government subsidies for agribusiness here, small farmers in both South Korea and the US lose out to giant corporate agribusiness.
- The proud tradition of South Korean workers’ struggle for their human rights is under sharp attack. The FTA is the latest weapon of South Korean and American corporate conglomerates to cut wages, eliminate jobs at will, and exponentially increase the numbers of temporary workers with no benefits and no security. We want to support the working people of Korea in their quest for fair wages and in their determination to live lives of dignity and peace. As the famous labor leader Chun Tae-Il said as he set his body afire in protest suicide against horrendous working conditions, “We are not Machines!” That was in 1970, and year after year Korean workers, including many trade union leaders, are still compelled to kill themselves in protest, the most recent being Mr. Lee Seung Dae in March of this year.
- Regulations that encourage consumers to buy cars with smaller engines, protecting the environment, will be abolished.
- The FTA will open the door for the dumping of US brand-name drugs, destroying the hope for affordable, life-saving medicine for senior citizens and everyone suffering from illness.
- Huge-budget commercial films from the US will gain even greater power over South Korea’s smaller but vibrant and exciting film industry. We can enjoy American cinema but we also want to support movies from around the world. Famous actors protest alongside peasants in this struggle that unites the Korean people.
Who will benefit from the US-South Korea FTA?
—The huge corporations in America and South Korea.
We, the people, lose out with the FTA: Many Americans saw their jobs disappear after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed with Canada and Mexico. Meanwhile, workers in Mexico were handed the hard labor without the pay or benefits. The people of Mexico have seen nothing of the economic prosperity that they were promised with NAFTA. Instead we see worsening urban poverty and a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Millions of Mexican migrant workers, facing these conditions, cross the border in search of work and face exploitation, discrimination, and marginalization in this country. This is the reality that faces the Korean people as well, along with millions of others displaced by neoliberal globalization.
The suffering of workers and farmers in other countries only makes the situation for American people worse. People whose way of life in their homeland was destroyed by corporations in pursuit of profit are forced to seek other ways to survive. If they cannot do so at home, they have no choice—if they want to feed their children, they must come to America. Once here, many employers are delighted to pay them only a fraction of what they deserve. Families are torn apart and children are forced to live without their parents. Year after year of unending work at bottom wages goes by without a father or mother being able to kiss a precious daughter or son. And their suffering makes the long struggle of American workers for decent pay that much harder and more heart-breaking.
South Korea would be the largest FTA partner for the United States in 15 years. Then as now, it is the huge corporations that stand to profit from increased opportunities to exploit us, the working people on all sides. The Roh Moo-hyun Administration promotes the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement as the key to recovering from a sluggish economy and the road towards prosperity, but we need only to look at the outcome of other free trade deals to see the absurdity of his statement.
What drives the Bush Administration’s strong-arm tactics in Korea and around the globe is the crisis that plagues the US economy. Rather than solving the crisis by supporting economic and social security for the people of America, the Bush Administration turns to war as a way out. The US government pours a million dollars a day to sustain a war that kills innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as American soldiers, servicemen and women who did not ask for this war and are coming out in opposition to it in ever greater numbers. The loss of family members and dear friends, the missing limbs and missing eyes, the once vital health that is gone forever, the years of untold grief and trauma, the nightmares, the homes bombed, the beautiful, ancient cities destroyed, cultural treasures thousands of years old in shards, the farmlands laid waste: this is what the unbridled search for profit brings to people around the world.
The Bush Administration prefers a permanent state of war over peace and real security and schemes to escalate its aggression by moving from Iraq and Afghanistan onto invading Iran. It also seeks to throw the noose around newly industrialized nations in Asia. And the Bush Administration has chosen Korea as its next target in East Asia.
We refuse to stand by and watch while corporations hack Korea’s economy to pieces. The people’s movement in Korea has declared stopping the US-South Korea FTA as its number one priority, and is resolved to build a united coalition of people and organizations around the world in opposition to neoliberal globalization, large-scale exploitation, and environmental destruction. We here in the United States join together with the people of Korea. We call on everyone to unite with farmers, workers, and everyone to resist the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
Down with the US-South Korea FTA and neoliberal globalization! Let’s struggle together for the liberation and self-determination of all people!
Mobilize and Organize to Resist the US-South Korea FTA and Neoliberal Globalization
Sponsoring Organizations: Congress for Korean Reunification, Corean American Network for Unification, FTA Action Taskforce-LA, Korea Democratic Labor Party US East Coast Branch, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development