FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Christine Ahn, 011-82-10-5846- 8020
Young Choe, 347-885-9226
Sonny Le, 510-919-0790
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
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.