The Act on Establishment of Special Economic Zones Must Be Stopped!
Unlimited freedom to transnational capital, unlimited suffering to the people
Source :  PICIS
Last 19th August, the Ministry of Finance and Economy proposed the Act on Establishment of Special Economic Zones(SEZs), to be implemented in accordance with its plans to make Korea the "business hub of East Asia". This act will give tax cuts to foreign investors, as well as exemption from various forms of regulation. This move is in line with the recent acceleration by the Kim Dae-Jung government to consolidate investment treaties and free trade agreements. It comes from the neoliberal dogma that dictates the sacrifice of our basic rights for the sake of transnational capital. We thoroughly denounce this neoliberal doctrine, and call for an all-out struggle to stop the Act from being passed.
The Act on Establishment of SEZs, which is being promoted with the objective of developing cities around Korea into 'world business hubs' and attracting foreign investment, will, if passed, give foreign investors investing in the SEZs tax holidays, financial support, simplification of construction procedures, among other deregulatory benefits. Also, investors will be exempted from the obligations stated in the Basic Labour Laws and Act on Dispatchment of Workers. Investors will not be obligated to give paid monthly and menstrual leave, and will not be bound by any kind of limits on dispatchment of workers. Foreign investors have already complained that trade unions in Korea are far too strong, and Labour Laws too strict. The Act on Establishment of SEZs is a definite response to these 'complaints'. It will give foreign investors the right to exploit workers as much as it pleases, and will worsen the already serious job instability.
Furthermore, the Act will permit the establishment of foreign education institutions and branches of foreign schools, as well as allowing foreign pharmacies and hospitals within the SEZ. These measures are nothing more than intentions to instigate the liberalisation and commercialisation of education and health care. The Act also allows unlimited conversion of farmlands for development. Just as many social and civil organisations have already criticised, the liberalisation of education and health care will turn the peoples' rights to education and health into money-making toys for transnational capitalists, while the conversion and 'development' of farmlands will completely devastate the environment and endanger the livelihoods of peasants.
There are still other problems. The establishment of SEZs will impoverish the already destitute lives of women under neoliberal rule. In the light of the fact that the majority of the unstable workers in Korea are women, capital's exemption from labour obligations will undermine the basic rights of women and worsen the instability of women workers. Also, the plans to promote hospitality and service facilities will result in the expansion of prostitution and trafficking. It is not very difficult of give examples from around the world where 'Capital Liberalisation Zones' have 'legally' exploited women's labour and sexuality.
The Kim Dae-Jung government, ever since the economic crisis, has consistently enforced neoliberal policies, and has impoverished the lives of the people more than the crisis itself. This Act on Establishment of SEZs comes together with the Act on Promotion of FDI, investment treaties, liberalisation of investment and trade under the auspices of the WTO, continuous attempts to undermine the Labour Laws, and policies to stimulate financial speculation. Because these neoliberal measures have received strong resistance from the people, the government has chosen the easy way -to put everything to practice, starting from a 'zone'.
The Act on Establishment of SEZs is an act that will throw the Korean economy into the turmoil of neoliberal globalisation, and is the ticket for the 'race to the bottom'. Neoliberal globalisation is being challenged by the internationalist struggles of the world's peoples. Until the day this Act is retracted, until the day the people of the world, united, terminates the cycle of neoliberalism - let's fight!
9th September, 2002
Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity(PICIS)
2002 / -0 / 9-