Civic Groups Show Mixed Reaction to South Korea-US Fta Deal
SEOUL, April 2 Asia Pulse - A landmark South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) on Monday drew mixed responses among civic groups here, with opponents vowing an all-out campaign to prevent it from being passed by the National Assembly and proponents welcoming it as a means of boosting growth. "We see the government practically opened its rice market (to the United States) while pretending to make all efforts to protect the market," said Oh Jong-ryeol, co-chairman of the Korean Alliance against the Korea-U.S. FTA, a coalition of activists.
He alleged South Korean negotiators deceived the people to make it look as if they did their best to defend national interests in the talks, but in fact they had already reached full agreement with the U.S. on Saturday morning.
The organization claimed the agreement was invalid and vowed to hold candlelight protests every evening in central Seoul.
Kim Min-yeong, deputy secretary-general of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, part of the alliance, called the Roh Moo-hyun government's push for the agreement a "coup d'etat," not an act of governance.
Choi Jun-yeoung, an official of the Cultural Action, claimed the government "reached a poor deal with the U.S. to meet the country's schedule for the negotiations."
"We will begin activities to nullify the deal and prevent the parliamentary ratification of the agreement," he said.
But conservative groups hailed the FTA, saying it was indispensable for the country's future.
Je Seong-ho, a law professor of Chung-Ang University and a co-chairman of the New Right Union, claimed the agreement is prerequisite for the country to enhance its national competitiveness in this age of globalization.
Hong Jin-pyo, head of the Liberty Union, said the agreement would maximize South Korean consumers' interests by lowering prices of agricultural products and imported goods and boost exports to the U.S. market.
Kim Gu-bu, chief of the Free Citizens' Alliance of Korea, also welcomed the agreement, saying it was "unavoidable" considering the country's heavy dependence on trade and shortage of natural resources.