International Action Center
Americans Protest U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement in Seoul
Seoul, Korea (Nov. 22, 2006)— An American delegation of peace, labor and social justice activists led by Cindy Sheehan is in Seoul to join the nationwide mobilization against the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated. The delegation is joining the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) who has called for a General Strike from all sectors of South Korean society to demand that the Roh government seriously address the needs of workers and peasants.
The delegation of 18 includes trade unionists, students, journalists, and peace activists from the Working Families Party; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union; International Longshore and Warehouse Union; Via Campesina; Gold Star Families for Peace; Code Pink; and Veterans for Peace.
"The neoliberal policies of the Roh administration are a direct attack on the rights of South Korean workers," said Jose Schiffino of the 1.2 million-member AFSCME Union. "The struggle for these rights is the shared responsibility of all trade unionists."
The key concerns of the KCTU are to stop repression against trade union activities, to implement the ILO recommendations, to guarantee basic labor rights for irregular workers, and to repeal the current "Industrial Relations Roadmap Agreement" and replace it with laws that meet international standards.
In South Korea, approximately 60 percent of laborers are irregular workers without basic labor protections, such as the right to assemble and the right to organize. The Roh administration’s "Roadmap Agreement" intends to eradicate public services, such as healthcare and education. The U.S.-Korea FTA would further strip the rights of workers and citizens to advance the interests of transnational corporations. As pre-conditions for trade negotiations, the Roh administration has already lowered emission standards on automobiles, eliminated price controls on pharmaceuticals, reduced Korean film screen quotas, and lifted the ban that was instituted on imported U.S. beef due to mad cow disease.
"Like the war in Iraq, the U.S. mid-term elections was also a referendum on free trade agreements," said Christine Ahn of the Korea Policy Institute. "Democratic candidates, especially from states that lost manufacturing jobs, won by campaigning against new free trade agreements modeled after the failed NAFTA."
"Free Trade Agreements impose more hunger, misery and exclusion," said German Bedoya, a peasant farmer from Bogota, Colombia also joining the American delegation. Bedoya, a member of Via Campesina, an international farmers’ union, said, "The Colombia-U.S. FTA has impoverished our people and has stolen our national sovereignty for the benefit of enriching transnational corporations. I came to Korea to demonstrate that worker and farmer solidarity doesn’t have barriers of distance or language."
Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a coalition of U.S. based Korean organizations working to stop the passage of the FTA and the expansion of the U.S. military base in Pyongtaek, is the sponsor and organizer of the Korea trip. For more information, visit http://kawanlist.blogspot.com.