Workers protest US, S Korea FTA
Wednesday, December 6, 2006 (Seoul):
Thousands of farmers and factory workers took to the streets of Seoul on Wednesday to protest against a free trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the US.
Holding anti-FTA banners and chanting slogans, the protesters gathered as a fifth round of talks continued at the Big Sky Resort in the US state of Montana to discuss removing tariffs and other trade barriers.
The plan has drawn strong resistance from South Korean labour, agriculture and social groups, as well as the film industry.
Farmers have been among the most vocal in protesting against any reduction in protections for agriculture, particularly rice.
Korean police imposed a ban on anti-FTA rallies after similar protests turned violent and raised public criticism on November 22.
But around five-thousand protesters were seen gathering in the city on Wednesday.
The Chairman of Farmers’ Union Moon Kyung-sik denounced a "humiliating agreement, not a fair one."
"And then us workers, farmers and people of this country will get huge damages."
"So (the government) should make the process of negotiation public, and proceed to the FTA between Korea and the US under national consensus," he said.
Protesters and riot police were seen pushing each other, but no violence was reported.
Seoul and Washington kicked off their negotiations in June and have since made little progress, with the last round of talks held on the Korean island of Jeju in late October.
Their officials said they hope to seal a deal by early next year. If they do, it would be the biggest for Washington since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993. (AP)