Good morning and thank you for attending this press conference. My name is Christine Ahn and I am a fellow with the Oakland Institute and a board member of the newly formed Korea Policy Institute. The Oakland Institute is a policy think tank whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in both national and international forums.
That is why we felt it was urgent that the Korean delegation before you—the member of Parliament, farmers, and trade unionists—have an opportunity to voice their concerns to Members of Congress and the American people how a Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and South Korea will impact their lives. They will tell you how the South Korean government has not provided any meaningful public forum for debate on the FTA, just as ordinary Americans in the U.S. have not been privy to any public hearings.
Co-organized by the Korea Policy Institute and the Oakland Institute, prominent Korean leaders representing labor, farm and parliament will speak on the impact that the proposed trade agreement will have on Korean society and economy.
What we do know, from over a decade of NAFTA, is that the real drivers of so-called free trade agreements are multinational corporations. The irony in all of this is that the very governments that promote the free-flow of capital prohibit the entry of the very people whose lives are at stake. As many of you know, over 100 Korean delegates had their visas denied by the U.S. State Department. Although their voices will not be heard, thankfully some 50 Koreans, including those addressing you today, managed to travel thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean and across the United States of America to address you all today.
These delegates have earned the trust of the Korean people because they have been on the forefront of social movements that brought democracy to South Korea 20 years ago. Today, they are engaged in a deep political and economic struggle not only for the human and labor rights of all Koreans, but also for worker, farmer, and peasant movements throughout the world. They deserve our utmost respect for making this voyage and having the courage to speak up and fight for the human rights of their fellow citizens and their fellow workers and farmers here in the United States. Thank you.