South Korea Reports
PICIS INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER #70
Sat, 25 Mar 2000
KoPA (Korean People's Action Against Investment Treaties and theWTO)
holds Demonstration against WTO Agricultural Negotiations, Korea-U.S. and Korea-Japan Bi-Lateral Investment Treaties and the Kim Dae-Jung Government
KoPA (Korean People's Action Against Investment Treaties and the WTO) held a demonstration in front of government offices on the 23rd of March in protest of the WTO Agricultural Negotiations, Korea-U.S. and Korea-Japan InvestmentTreaties and the Kim Dae-Jung Government. Despite the voices of the people around the world against investment treaties, the WTO, and neo-liberalism at the WTO negotiations last year in Seattle, the government is going through with the follow-up negotiations on the agriculture and service areas. The follow-up negotiations on service have already held their first session in February, and the negotiations on agriculture were held on the 23rd and 24th of this month. KoPA, adamantly believes that the voices of the people of the world against the WTO and for which it stands was not just cry against new agendas being included in the WTO negotiations, but a demonstration against structurally enforced inequality of 'free trade' and neo-liberalism which the WTO is forcing on to the people of the world. Therefore, the follow-up negotiations can only mean a total disregard for the opinions and actions of the people of Korea, as well as the world.
The 2nd round of negotiations for the Korea-Japan bi-lateral investment treaties were held in January, and the Korea-U.S. bi-lateral investment treaty is expected to be signed soon. We can see that such bi-lateral investment treaties have muchin common with the problems of the WTO negotiations and we can foretell from cases in other countries that it will bring the same effects. Such treaties only serve the interests of trans-national capital and deprive the people of their basic rights.
Despite such obvious problems and contradictions within the WTO trade investment system, the Kim Dae-Jung government is insisting that the attraction of foreign capital and neo-liberal restructuring is the 'only way to live.' However, higher then ever unemployment rates, increasingly unstable jobs, and the polarization of wealth is proofthat president Kim Dae-Jung must rethink his position of the issue.
KoPA held a demonstration against such actions by the government in front of government offices on the day of the WTO follow-up negotiations. KoPA's demands were the following:
Immediate Stop to the WTO Follow-Up Negotiations!
Immediate Stop to Bi-Lateral Investment Treaty Negotiations!
Exclude Agriculture, Public Service, Culture, and Biological Patent Agendas from the WTO System!
(For more information, visit Korea's Anti-WTO homepage at http://antiwto.jinbo.net)
Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity
Images: A farmer hurls a pear into a pile of burning watermelons and cardboard containers; Students and Farmers attack the riot policemen who blocked protesters' marching after a rally protesting U.S. presssure to open South Korea's agricultural market at the downtown in Seoul, Tuesday, July 25, 2000. Thousands of farmers denounced the government's agricultural policies. (AP Photos/Ahn Young-joon).
SEOUL, South Korea, Nov. 19 (AP) - Shouting “Fight! Fight!,” about 20,000 workers marched in central Seoul on Sunday to oppose a government-led restructuring plan that they fear will lead to mass layoffs.
The protest was the latest in a series that began early this month, when the government stepped up its restructuring of debt-strapped businesses to restore sagging investor confidence in the economy.
Workers have since vowed to fight any moves that could result in lost jobs, including the privatization of state companies.
“Are you prepared to fight until our just demands are accepted?” Lee Nam-soon, head of the powerful Federation of Korean Trade Unions, which organized the protest, shouted during a two-hour rally at a riverbank park.
Colorful placards and streamers filled the park. Half a dozen huge balloons the size of cars floated in the air with banners hanging from them reading “Fight! Solidarity!” Protesters later marched to the National Assembly.
The labor group, which claims a membership of 1.2 million, said it will organize a nationwide strike in early December unless the government retracts a bill to restructure state-funded firms.
The bill is being deliberated by the National Assembly.
The protests were peaceful and there were no reports of violent clashes with police.
In last week's protests which drew 20,000 workers, almost 100 people were injured, some seriously, in clashes with police, according to labor groups and police.
Sunday's protest was in support of the 23,000-member union of the state power utility, Korea Electric Power Corp., which the government plans to break into several units and sell.
A 950-megawatt gas-fueled electric power plant belonging to the firm has already been sold to a consortium of local and foreign firms, including Caltex and Texaco of the United States.
The government is under intense pressure to energize South Korea's economy, which is facing recession that experts blame on the slow pace of the government's restructuring of heavily indebted businesses.
In a drastic measure early this month, government-controlled creditor banks named 52 financially weak companies that should be shut down or merged for sale.
The move shocked tens of thousands of workers at those and other financially shaky companies that have been surviving on emergency bank loans.
Officials expect the business failures to force an additional 100,000 people out of jobs by year's end, raising the unemployment rate by a half percentage point to 4.1 percent.
"States of Unrest" | IMF/ WB Asia & Pacific | IMF/ WB Struggles | www.agp.org (archives) | www.all4all.org