Statement from the Congressional Press Conference on the Proposed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement

Statement from the Congressional Press Conference on the Proposed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement

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National Assembly Member, Korean Democratic Labor Party

Good morning. My name is Ki Kap Kang, and I am a National Assembly Member of the Democratic Labor Party, known as the party representing the hope for working people.

Ever since President Roh Moo Hyun revealed his intent to pursue a FTA with the United States, every aspect of Korean society from labor, agriculture, entertainment, civic groups, and health sectors have voiced their opposition to the proposed deal.

Korean law mandates public hearings on trade agreements, yet the President “anticipating fierce opposition” blatantly violated this rule to shut out the concerns of citizens, business, and members of the National Assembly. Furthermore, the government, without conducting any impact assessments, went ahead and shamefully accepted several pre-conditions made by the U.S. in order to start talks.

The Roh administration caved in to U.S. demands and will now import U.S. beef that could be contaminated with mad-cow disease. The Roh government also unilaterally announced that it would cut the existing film screen quota, which has both cultivated the South Korean entertainment industry and preserved Korean culture. This has triggered massive protest by the film industry, including nightly demonstrations.

The Roh administration, citing statistics from its government agency, the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, proclaimed that a FTA would benefit the Korean economy. Due to suspicion that the government agency report’s numbers were fabricated, a public investigation has been prompted questioning the validity of the report. Meanwhile, new research shows that the FTA has the potential to wreak tremendous havoc on the Korean economy and society, particularly agriculture.

According to the South Korean government’s own institute, the KREI, Korean agriculture could face a loss of 2,283,000 million won or over $2 billion dollars. However, according to presentations made at a forum hosted by the Private Sector Taskforce on FTA, Korean agriculture alone will lose profits up to 7,693,200 million won, over $7 billion dollars, if tariffs on farming products are removed. There is also a major discrepancy in figures projected by the government and by the seafood industry. According to the government, deep-sea fishermen face loss in profits not exceeding 45,800 million won, but the seafood industry estimates losses of 577,400 million won.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the government’s draft negotiation proposal is the promulgation of a legal system that would guarantee U.S. corporations the right to sue the South Korean government for public policies that are considered barriers to trade. This means that Korea’s many hard-won environmental and labor laws could be eliminated overnight, including the end of Korea’s minimum wage and social services.

According to national media surveys, 55 percent of Koreans oppose the U.S.-Korea FTA, and 66 percent oppose the dumping of U.S. agriculture resulting from the FTA.

For these reasons, the Democratic Labor Party opposes the FTA and will work with Korean civil society and businesses to protect the human rights of all Koreans.

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