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J18 Action in Korea

The following articles are cited from PICIS Newsletter #56.
It is published weekly by Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity. To join PICIS mailinglist, send a message to
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In Solidarity,
Lee Chang-Geun, Editor of PICIS Newsletter

Korean people will demonstrate against the IMF, BIT and WTO Millenoum Round on the 18th of June.

On June 18th, Korean people's organizations such as KCTU, Korean Farmers' League, Seoul Women's Trade Union, People's Solidarity for Social Progress, and A SEED Korea, will hold a rally at the front of government complex building, under the title of "June 18th International People's Action, Korean action day against the IMF, BIT and WTO Millenium Round".

The day of June 18th is one of international people's action against the transnational financial capital and neo-liberal globalization. In accordance with this project, Korean people's organizations have prepared June 18th action. Especially Korean people is going to focus on the BIT. Korean government has intended to conclude the Bilateral Investment Treaties with the U.S. and Japan since last year. The BITs are the colnes of the MAI which would have very negative impacts on people's livelihood & democratic rights and ecology. Especially, the government is trying to complete the negociation of BIT with the U.S before the president, Kim Dae-Jung's visit to the country in July. Screen Quota system, one of the main issues in the course of negociation with the U.S., which ensure Korean movies to play at movie theaters at least for 146 days a year, was reported to be abolished steadily after 2002.

And Korean people also oppose the WTO Millenium Round in cooperation with world people. Most people's organizations agree to the 'Moratorium Text to the WTO Millenium Round'.

After the rally on June 18th, participants will march to the MyungDong Cathedral by bike. Students & young people will make counterfeit money on which "No to the IMF, BIT, and WTO Millenium Round" is written, and distribute it over citizen during the march.
The core slogans are the following at this rally.

* Argument *

Moratorium to the WTO Millenium Round and the Korea/U.S. Korea/Japan Bilateral Investment Treaty

'Millenium', 'The 21st Century'..........The phrase 'Millenium' has been appearing in many advertising campaigns, and many government organizations are busy in preparation of a 'Millenium Event.' It has gone so far as to draw criticism from conservative newspapers that there are much more to the formalities about the hoopla surrounding the millenium than there is actual substance or meaning. But what significance does the 'new millenium' have to the people of the world and the people of Korea? What meaning is there for us besides the obvious fact that anotheryear is going by? How to survive in the new millenium is probably much more urgent priority to the people of the world than the other significances(whatever they may be) that the new millenium seems to have. What good is it to revel in the significance of a new thousand years when it is getting harder and harder just to get by?

They are already busy with the preparations. There is more to it than the fact that there is fierce competition for the broadcasting rights of the first sunrise in the year 2000( in a certain region of New Zealand). Preparations are systematically ongoing for 'more freedom' (for capital, that is). Following the Uruguay Round, which led to the birth of the WTO, new free trade negotiations will again commence at Seattle in November. The Uruguay Round did much to free up the movement of services and goods around the world. Under fancy slogans such as "The redistribution of wealth on a global scale," "The expansion of job opportunities around the world," imperialist nations and trans-national companies fought for, and built a system of liberalization, and deregulation. But none of their promises were kept. Wealth was not redistributed but rather became even more concentrated upon a few corporations.What was brought on wasn't their claim of 'the globalization of wealth," but the "globalization of poverty." The wealth of the 44 richest people in the world is greater than the income of half the world's population, and the 3 richest men in the world's property value is greater than the combined GNP of 48 countries; a quarter of the world. The wealth of the 225 richest people in the world is equal to the yearly income of the least-earning 47% of the world. Their assertion of "The expansion of job opportunities around the world" also was proved wrong by the exact opposite result. The output of the 100 biggest multi national corporations takes up 15% of the gross world product, but only employ 12 million workers. If you take into account that there are at least 1.5 billion people across the that are less than fully employed, and also the fact that while the output of these companies abroad increased 26% while the number of employees went down 4%, you realize the truth behind their fabrications. The job destroying reality of the free trade area, made according to NAFTA, is even more brutal. 400,000 jobs in the U.S. were lost as a direct effect of this agreement, and 85% of U.S. companies layed off workers to move jobs to the free trade area. In Mexico, 20 thousand to 28 thousand small/medium sized enterprises went bankrupt due to competition from multi-naitonal corporations, and in effect 2 million jobs in the public sector were lost. There is no longer any connection between 'investment' and 'jobs' for MNCs. Investment does not mean jobs and there is no expansion of job opportunities. This is because, in the age of neo-liberalglobalization there is only 2 kinds of investment. One is the elimination of the opposition through M&A, and the other is through speculation in the financial market, which can bring in high profits without the worry of clashing with the workers. Of the direct foreign investment inflow around the world, about 70% of it is in the form of M&A; around 90% among developed countries. But employment restructuring is a necessary after-affect and this ultimately leads to lost jobs. On the other side, the daily trading volume on the New York, London, and Tokyo foreign exchange market was close to 12 trillion dollars. Of the 12 trillion exchanged only about 2 to 5 % of the deals were spot transactions involving real goods and services. The people of the world know too well the results of such 'gambles' in the financial market through their experiences in Mexico, East Asia, Russia, and Brazil. Speculative investment in the financial market brings sweet profits to the MNC, but the aftershock means the elimination of jobs and the means of survival for the people of the world. Jobs are lost, public services are reduced, wages are cut, and taxes and debts rise.

Public services and public expenditures which helped to meet the needs of the people are being reduced or eliminated altogether. Public corporations are being privatized and being sacrificed to MNCs, and the people are forced to spend more to get the same services. With their very basic public services eliminated, the people of the world are forced into a 'race toward the bottom' at a national/international level for there right to survive. No matter how dismaltheir working environment may be, no matter how meager their wages, people cannot help but accept and work in these conditions. The 'bottom' means a state of slavery in which monthly wages are at about 10 to 20 dollars, the labor market is 'flexible', and in which the right of organization is deprived. This is because in the age of neo-liberalism, the purpose of the state is to provide a set of conditionsmost favorable to the capitalists and most oppressive to the workers, all wrapppd in the ideologey of gaining the 'competitive edge.' More rights and more privileges to 'foreign investors'! Endless competitiontoward the bottom for the people of the world! Such is the present liberalized, open market system.

The price the people of the world paid during the globalization process of liberalization, open market, and deregulation cannot be expressed in numbers. And now they want to renew negotiations for even 'more freedom.' On top of that they are calling it the 'Millenium Round', manipulating the coming of a new century and setting up the illusion that in 'a new era will begin in the year 2000.' But liberalization and the open market system was disastrous to the people of the world and more of it can only mean a more serious disaster.

Without any consideration of the disasters brought on by liberalization, without the sincerity to openly study and assess the effects of it, plans are under way for another 'liberalizatio round.' There will be new talks at the Millenium Round about realms that had not been opened to liberalization after the Uruguay Round and also discussions will be renewed about the MAI, which is infamous as the constitution of international capital. This is why the Millenium Round poses a new threat for the people of the world. New realms will be opened up to liberalization and the multilateral agreement on investment, which was grounded because of opposition from NGOs, labor unions across the world and France's 'cultural exception', will be discussed under the WTO system that includes most of the countries in the world. Everything else aside, we can be well aware of the nature of MAI just by the fact that the it will be discussed at the Millenium Round. The speculation of international financial capital will be accepted as legitimate investments; and applying national labor, environmental, and human rights standards on MNCs that have invested in a country will be outlawed, and if profit is lost when such standards are applied, the MNCs will be given the above-the-law right to sue the government for their losses. 'The constitution of the MNCs': that's what the MAI is. As a result, despite ideological differences, NGOs, labor unions, and radical left parties can show no other reaction then to oppose it. But this constitution(!) will again be discussed this year, and the table will be at the Millenium Round.

The people of Korea are already feeling the effects of liberalization and the open market system after the UR, entrance into the OECD, and the IMF crisis. Foreign exchange holdings have increased to 57.3 billion dollars(up from 8.8), the stock market has climbed back up to 700(up from 200), people are spending more, and investment is also on the rise. But behind the miraculous recovery of the Korean economy are the 4 million jobless, the enormous paycuts, rises in taxes, reduction in public services, and the social phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It shows just for whothe economic recovery is for and at whose cost the economic recovery will come. The stock market is now controlled by foreign investors, who now own over 20% of the market. The stock market is busy analyzing the trends of foreign investors, and even the government cannot help but pay attention to them. They have already sent home profits in excess of 6.78 billion dollars, and their profit ratio of 45.3% is much higher than that of the overall stock market, which is at 27.5%.

Also, to recover lost profits, the chae-bol have resorted to there only method of cost cutting: layoffs on a massive scale to reduce labor costs.Furthermore, talks for the Korea/U.S. Korea/Japan Bilateral Investment Treaty, full of articles and clauses find in the plans for MAI, are 'secretly' under way.

The people of Korea cannot accept the 'Millenium Round' and the 'Korea/U.S. and Korea/Japan bilateral investment treaty' in a situation when the shock of neo-liberalism and the open market system is still lingering. We must refuse any investment or trade liberalization treaty without a deeper look at the effects that leberalization and the open market will have on Korean society and the people of Korea. Furthermore, with the disastrous effects of neo-liberalism being noticed around the world, neither the ruling class's contention that 'attracting foreign capital is the only way to survive' nor their plans to enforce the open market system have any legitimacy. The 'Millenium' may be coming for them, but the new millenium for the people of the world and Korea offers no hope for an escape from their desolate situation. Already, over 600 labor, political, and social organizations in 68 countries are voicing their opposition to and acting against the WTO Millenium Round. If our solidarity with them is to be reduced to one on paper, no hope exists for us. There exists no Millenium for us if the freedom and the right of international capital to move freely to wherever the most profit is and to exploit freely is not held back. Let us declare a moratorium on all 'trade and investment liberalizaion treaties' which accelerate neo-liberal structural adjsutments and deregulation and which also institutionalizes the unlimited exploitation of profit. We oppose Korea/Japan Korea/U.S. Bilateral Investment Treaties! Stop the WTO Millenium Round! The possiblity for a better society and for a new millenium of hope starts here.

<written by Lee Chang-Geun(PICIS) translated by Lee Chun-Sam>

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