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More Anti-FTA Protests in the Korean Capitol Today
by Lim Noh Won Thursday, Jul. 13, 2006 at 5:39

There were more protests in the Korean capitol today as the second round of Korea-US FTA talks continued at the Shilla Hotel here in Seoul.

audio: MP3 at 10.1 mebibytes

July 13, 2006

There were more protests in the Korean capitol today as the second round of Korea-US FTA talks continued at the Shilla Hotel here in Seoul.

A group holding a mock funeral procession was attacked by police when they lit the funeral bier on fire at the end of a very colorful and theatrical demonstration. The mock funeral bier, made of paper, was placed over concrete and was not endangering either people or property as it burned. Also keep in mind that much of the country is still under water from the flooding and heavy rains earlier this week. There was absolutely no reason for the police to react at all. However, they charged the crowd, beating random bystanders over the head with their 4 foot tall plexi-glass shields and sprayed both the crowd and the bier with a fire extinguisher. saving no one and injuring dozens. serving and protecting, indeed.

In the midst of all this protest, it's worth talking a little about what an FTA really does. let's take a look at what NAFTA has really done.

the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), took effect on January 1, 1994. NAFTA was sold to the American public as the magic formula that would improve the American economy and at the same time raise up the Mexican economy.

While there has been a little media coverage of NAFTA's ruinous impact on US industrial communities, there has been even less media attention paid to its catastrophic effects in Mexico:

So rather than improving living standards, Mexican wages have actually fallen since NAFTA.

And Mexicans must still contend with the results of the American-owned 'maquiladora' sweatshops: subsistence-level wages, pollution, congestion, horrible living conditions (cardboard shacks and open sewers), and a lack of resources (for streetlights and police) to deal with a wave of violence against vulnerable young women working in the factories. The survival (or less) level wages coupled with harsh working conditions have not been the great answer to Mexican poverty. But they have temporarily been the answer to Corporate America's demand for low wages.

With US firms unwilling to pay even minimal taxes, NAFTA has hardly produced the promised uplift in the lives of Mexicans. Juarez Mayor Gustavo Elizondo, whose city is crammed with US-owned low-wage plants, expressed it plainly: "We have no way to provide water, sewage, and sanitation workers. Every year, we get poorer and poorer even though we create more and more wealth."

Falling industrial wages, peasants forced off the land, small businesses liquidated, growing poverty: these are direct consequences of NAFTA. This harsh suffering explains why so many desperate Mexicans -- lured to the border area in the false hope that they could find dignity in the US-owned maquiladoras -- are willing to risk their lives to cross the border to provide for their families. There were 2.5 million Mexican illegals in 1995; 8 million have crossed the border since then. In 2005, some 400 desperate Mexicans died trying to enter the US.

Do you want this for Korea?

Think again.

Much of this show has been taken from an article written by Michael Bybee and Carolyn Winter, who are Milwaukee-based writers and activists.
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