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FTA protestors hold joint meeting, notch up efforts

The Hankyoreh, Seoul

FTA protestors hold joint meeting, notch up efforts

Joint statement by groups calls for public referendum, more transparency on S.K.-U.S. trade deal

14 April 2007

About 100 representatives of more than 800 civic and social organizations opposed to the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) held a meeting in downtown Seoul on April 13, urging the government to hold a national referendum regarding the trade deal and to release information regarding the FTA negotiations, which concluded with a preliminary agreement on April 2.

A statement made by the representatives read, "The remaining period until the final signing of the FTA should be spent in recovering the sovereignty and democratic choice that have been completely neglected until now, and confirming the public’s opinions on whether or not to sign the agreement. The government should immediately make information on the negotiations open to the public and perform a national referendum regarding the final results of the negotiations."

Considering the FTA with the U.S. represents a policy change similar to a constitutional revision, with the accompanying reworking of numerous laws, regulations, and overall social order, it is natural to ask the public its views, the representatives stressed.

In addition, the representatives’ meeting urged the government to hold a public hearing, as well as to invoke the parliamentary right to hold concerned officials responsible for "proceeding with a closed-door agreement and excluding the National Assembly [from the process]," the statement continued. "One way for the National Assembly to recover its inefficiency and incompetence seen thus far [on the FTA matter] is to completely verify the entire process of negotiations and to investigate possibly false and exaggerated reports."

The groups represented by the signatories to the statement were not limited to the 270 organizations belonging to a national umbrella group against the Korea-U.S. FTA, which has led a variety of ralles against the trade pact, but other major civic organizations such as the Citizen’s Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ), as well.

Im Jong-dae, co-chair of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and a participant in the meeting, criticized the government, saying, "It was confirmed that the government pushed ahead with the FTA negotiations without sufficient data or without conducting analysis on its policies. The government also has been involved in a scandal related to the fabrication of the data used," he continued.

The organizations plan to step up the level of their struggle when the agreement document is made available to the public next month, and said they will wage a major rally against the Korea-U.S. summit slated for late June.