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Koreans Protest Against Korea-US FTA
by Lim Noh Won Wednesday, Jul. 12, 2006 at 9:54 PM

Daily news and commentary on progressive, anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian movements in Korea.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Despite massive flooding throughout the capitol of Korea 60,000 people rallied at Seoul City Hall and the United States Embassy to demonstrate their opposition to the Korea-US FTA, which is halfway through its second round of negotiations.

The Korea Alliance Against the Korea-U.S. FTA, an activist group that represents 282 trade unions, farmer`s groups and civic movement groups, conducted a protest outside Seoul City Hall. The Korea Federation of Trade Unions also went ahead with a one-day strike. 100,000 to 150,000 union workers are believed to have participated in the one-day strike

Earlier that morning, 41 unionized irregular (or temporary) Korean workers occupied the roof of the building next to the Dong-ah Ilbo, a prominent conservative newspaper, in central Seoul . They demanded job protection, regular worker status, an end to the government crackdown on the labor movement, an immediate halt to the FTA talks, and the securing of workers rights. 100 protestors blocked the front entrance of the building, preventing the police from entering and arresting those on the roof.

Other anti Korea-U.S. FTA protests took place across the city yesterday, including a one-man demonstration by Lee Byung-chul, a professor at Kangwon National University and author Hong Sae-hwa, outside Shilla hotel, the venue of the FTA talks.

Joining the Korean demonstrators were representatives from the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation, two major trade union federations in the United States.

More than 20,000 riot police and 288 traffic policemen were deployed to the action.

The people gathered at city hall, and split into three different routes to march toward the presidential Blue House, when the police attacked violently. the crowd dispursed throughout side streets, only to fight their way through police barricades to ultimately meet back up at gwanghwamun.

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO condemned the mistreatment of Korean and American union and civil society leaders by South Korean riot police during a press conference yesterday in Seoul.

Sweeney wrote. "I am concerned that yesterday's actions are emblematic of the continuing repression of free association and free speech in the Republic of Korea. This incident highlights yet another reason for concern about the proposed Free Trade Agreement itself."

Finding much common ground with Korean laborers and farmers, the ACL-FIO manifested its solidarity against the FTA stating that:

"Free-trade agreements like NAFTA and KORUS speed the erosion of working conditions all over the world"

Koreans see cheap rice from the U.S. destroying their rice industry, the way cheap U.S. corn destroyed farmers in Mexico. They see their pharmaceutical industry destroyed and fear laws encouraging energy-efficient cars will be cut and SUVs will be imported. "

inside the shilla hotel negotiations were stalled over Korea's pharmeceutical policy, a prime negotiating component to the FTA.

a top korean negotiator was supposed to give a press conference but canceled it, citing the demonstrations and the dissapointing progress of the talks

the public opinion of the Korean internet community (netizens) appears to be growing increasingly sympathetic to the anti FTA demonstrators. There has been a flurry of comments critical of police conduct on government run websites, online news stories and internet photo sites that document the situation.

Thursdays events will include a symbolic funeral procession conducted by the korean farmer's league in front of the shilla hotel.

As well as a media industry workers general strike. The Press Trade Union consisting of newspaper and broadcasting workers will hold a press conference there as well.

One of Korea's largest television stations, KBS will be the scene of a 2pm rally, and at 7pm near gwanghwamoon the daily candlelight vigil will take place.

Korean independent media activists are busy covering these events from morning to evening using live broadcasting to give people instant access to on the ground news as well as and producing analytical newsprogramming.

for updates, pictures and video, go to (spell) july 10th

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