Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eclipse Rising demonstrates against the KorUS FTA

At noon on January 14, 2011, Eclipse Rising joined a group of Koreans, Korean Americans, Labor organizers, students, fair trade proponents and concerned citizens of the Bay Area who rallied in front of Representative Pelosi’s office in downtown San Francisco. The message was clear: a total dissemination of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, or KorUS FTA for short.

To see pictures from the rally in mid-January, please click the following the link (photo credit Richard Plunk):

First proposed in 2006, this bilateral free trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on 95% of goods traded between the two countries within five years, something that President Obama claims would create jobs for Americans. Yet, despite the anticipated increased cargo movement if the agreement passes, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has publically stood up against this agreement, “because it continues failed trade policy and is harmful to workers, consumers, and the environment in both South Korea and the United States.” In a letter to Representative Pelosi, the President of ILWU wrote that, “The ILWU will not support trade policy that exacerbates inequities, awards special rights to foreign investors, allows banks to practice the same disastrous policies that resulted in the current economic downturn, opens domestic environmental laws to foreign challenge, increases the trade deficit, and costs jobs.” Many against this FTA have pointed out that free trade agreements of the past have promised access to multiple markets for larger corporations, but increased competition and lowered workers wages and living conditions for the average citizens. KorUS FTA is actually the largest trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994, the effects of which, such as job loss and suppressed wages, continue to impact US workers and our economy to this day. Not to mention the complete destruction it has caused in Mexico, where farmers were pushed out of business, workers completely exploited and the environment of Mexico totally exhausted by deforestation and the high usage of chemicals and fertilizers.
Sadly there is more than trade agreements imbedded within the KorUS FTA. Korean Policy Institute fellow and organizer with Korean Americans for Fair Trade, Christine Ahn, wrote that many chapters within the agreement, “detail a number of complex regulations and restrictions that have one clear aim: weakening public power and strengthening corporate power.” The investment chapter would allow foreign corporations to sue the South Korean government if they implemented new laws that restricted the corporation’s ability to profit. Also, a great concern among many Korean citizens is the threat of losing universal health care. With this FTA, U.S. pharmaceutical corporations could mandate the placement of higher priced drugs on South Korea’s positive drug list, “which is a listing of generic, low-cost drugs that the government believes are medically effective and which its insurance will cover.” This would make medicine that was once accessible, inaccessible to the everyday working people of South Korea, “potentially leading the government to abandon its public commitment” to health care.

You might be wondering why the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement has gone through four years of renegotiations and is yet to pass through either government bodies. There has been resistance to this agreement in both governments, but most especially by the Democratic Labor Party and Democratic Progressive Party of South Korea whose members physically blocked out other members of congress from ratifying the agreement in 2008. Ms. Kim Kyung Ran of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions from South Korea was one of the featured speakers at the rally. At a dinner following, she presented on the 4-year movement by the masses of South Korea against the KorUS FTA, which started with 300 organizations in 2006 and grew to a 700,000 strong candle light vigil in Seoul the summer of 2008. Ms. Kim warned us that the movement has since lost some of its numbers and received less coverage in the media. Both South Korean and U.S. governments are continuing negotiations around the FTA behind closed doors and unless the people come out strongly against the KorUS FTA, it will be passed by both governments in February of 2011 when it is up for ratification.
Please join Eclipse Rising in our campaign against the Korean-US Free Trade Agreement. You can
• click on links below for more information about the agreement and look out for future posts about this topic.
• write to your congressional representatives, Speaker of the House, or the President to speak out against the KorUS FTA.
• Or, write an op-ed for your local newspaper!
1) Analysis: Christine Ahn's article "Forget the FTA Fix, just say no"
and another is from People's Solidarity for Social Progress: "The Revival of the U.S.-Korea FTA, the Global Economic Crisis and U.S. Intentions in East Asia" by Pilsoo Im
2) From the US side: the website of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, which has a whole series of linked pages with facts on the Korean US FTA:
3) This is the page from, on the Korean US FTA, outlining the undemocratic nature of how this FTA was passed in 2007 :
4) and finally, for history and context, this is the blog of the grouping of KA orgs that fought the negotiations back in 2007, when delegations from movement groups in South Korea came to each negotiation site:

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