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US wants Korea to throw broadcasting open wide

Chosun Ilbo, Korea

U.S. Wants Korea to Throw Broadcasting Open Wide

6 September 2006

The U.S. wants Korea to open 11 service sectors including broadcasting and telecommunications, home delivery, legal and accounting services. In a third round of bilateral free-trade negotiations that will start in Seattle on Wednesday, the service sector is tipped to be the main stumbling block since Seoul has a mind to give in to few U.S. demands except letting some U.S. law firms operate here and some others.

In all, the U.S. wants 11 out of 98 services Seoul excluded from the FTA opened, a member of Korea’s negotiating team said. When it comes to broadcasting, the government thinks Washington will not go as far as to demand privatization of state-run network KBS, allowing U.S. investors to buy shares in it, but the details remain to be seen. "The U.S. demands were written on a single sheet of A4 paper, which only listed segments to be opened," an official here said. "We’ll find out the details in the negotiations.”

The U.S. reportedly wants Korean national TV networks to scrap or reduce a quota obliging them to fill 80 percent of their broadcasts with domestic content, and the government to lift regulations preventing cable TV channels from dubbing foreign broadcasts in Korean. Washington also wants Seoul to stop subsidizing the post office’s home delivery business and let U.S. home delivery services for small packages operate here. It wants Korea to lift the ceiling for foreign equity ownership in key telecom companies like KT and SK Telecom from 49 to 51 percent and open the market for legal and accounting services before 2011.

In turn, Korea submitted 10 suggestions, including streamlining U.S. visa renewal procedures for Korean expatriate workers, mutual recognition of professional certificates, and a new visa quota for some 20,000 Korean professionals. Seoul wants Washington to slash red tape in its visa program so Korean expatriate workers no longer have to shuttle between the two countries for visa renewal. Negotiations in the financial services sector are held separately from the general services sector, and the U.S. has not come up with detailed demands yet.