Good morning. I am here to represent 3.5 million Korean farmers. We have traveled to this far distant land to expose the injustice and lies underlying the U.S.-Korea FTA negotiations and to demand that the governments of the United States and Korea unconditionally terminate negotiations. The FTA is a strategy to transform the Korean economy for the purpose of enlarging American corporate profits. This is simply greed.
To this day, we farmers, under difficult conditions, have spilled our blood and sweat to protect our farmlands so we can provide the people of our nation with safe and superior food. We are now, however, faced with ruin since we have become the targets of the government’s deception and exploitation through their strident calls for globalization and de-regulation on behalf of corporations.
Although exports and the national income have risen in South Korea, it has done so without any corresponding growth in the income of everyday Korean people. Put simply, no matter how much exports increase, the lives of workers, common people, and owners of small to medium businesses have not and will not improve. Only large export-oriented corporations stand to profit.
American agriculture is 100-times the scale of Korea’s, and the US proposed FTA would put already struggling Korean farming households into more dire circumstances. Since the Uruguay Round, the condition of our farmers has become gradually worse. In 2005, the average rural household debt of a farming family surpassed $30,000 and $150,000 for larger-scale agricultural households. According to the United States International Trade Commission, the FTA would result in damages to the Korean agricultural industry of an estimated $8.8 billion. This dollar amount does no justice to the devastating rippling effects throughout Koreas economy and society beyond what is visible to the eye.
Agriculture’s value is not simply in the food we grow. Agriculture is about environmental conservation and the preservation of pastoral scenery, but above all, the security of one’s nation and people to be free from the vagaries of a global economy.
We have not forgotten the sacrifice of the martyr Lee Kyung Hae who killed himself to defend our agricultural industry and the livelihood of our fishermen and farmers in Mexico in September 2003. We, the 3.5 million farmers of our country, carry on his spirit and will block at all costs the U.S.-Korea FTA that threatens to ruin not only our farms but also our national economy we have grown with our sweat and blood. We solemnly pledge here, at this place, to take responsibility for our peoples agricultural autonomy and self-sufficiency and to labor for the continued development of our agriculture and fishing industries. Like the Swiss farmers and people who resisted American demands for the “de-regulation of the entire agricultural sector,” we the Koreans will fight to ensure the collapse of the FTA negotiations.