Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mass Protests in South Korea against US Free Trade Agreement

Written by Nile Bowie

Demonstrations have erupted on the streets of the South Korean capital of Seoul calling for the resignation of President Lee Myun-Bak. Thousands of demonstrators rallied against the publicly loathed free trade agreement with the United States, which is widely perceived by the public to be a catalyst for the stagnation of local businesses and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises in both South Korea and the United States.

The provisions of the treaty aim to eliminate 95% of each nation's tariffs on goods within five years. The flood of imported US agricultural goods in the Korean market is expected to undercut domestically produced products, causing the total decimation of the domestic Korean farming and agriculture market.

Within the United States, tariffs on automotive products from Korea will be slowly phased out. An unfettered surge of Korean auto imports to the United States will essentially be a nail in the coffin for the dwindling automotive manufacturing base within the United States, threatening an already dismal job market.

The KORUS FTA calls for protectionist policies designed to increase the privileges of transnational conglomerates and multinational financial services, thus systematically encouraging offshoring and global outsourcing, an initiative that droves of Koreans have aggressively demonstrated against for years. Although the collective American public seems to be ill informed about the effects of the treaty, the story is front-page news in Korea.

In a country like South Korea, where America’s involvement in its domestic affairs is widely perceived as wholly self-serving and parasitic, the public discourse against the free trade agreement is paramount.  The Korean public has been enraged in recent years by cases of rape and murder committed by US solders stationed in American military bases throughout South Korea.

In the past decade, the South Korean public has held massive demonstrations opposing the importation of American beef products, the inclusion of Korean soldiers stationed in Iraq, the existence of extensive US military bases and personal on their soil and the reforms of the WTO to the domestic agricultural sector.

Public discontent remains unwavering towards President Lee Myun-Bak, a man who has steered his country into the orbit of globalist financiers and staunchly reversed the efforts of previous administrations to build a conducive relationship with North Korea.

It is unclear how the Myun-Bak administration will fair in the upcoming South Korean elections when his growing opposition views him as a puppet of foreign corporate interests. There seems to be little debate among the masses of both nations that the KORUS FTA is anything but a race to the bottom for the majority of society.