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Nov. 17  2018
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[Updated]Farmers flood Seoul to protest WTO

More than 70,000 farmers and their supporters from labor, students, and other progressive forces took over Yeoido riverside park, near the National Assembly, to protest the World Trade Organization-led opening of the domestic rice market and a free trade agreement with Chile that further threatens the lives that toil in South Korea's breadbasket. * Struggle Video
- Video: Farmers Rally in Yui-DoReal Player | Window Media



Source  :  Base21


(Photo by Terry Park)

by Terry Park and Christian/Base21 Media Activists
parkterry@hotmail.com
dvs-b@t-online.de

Seoul, Korea--Like the water that floods their rice fields every year, farmers from every corner of the nation swamped the capital city today to protect their livelihood against global capitalism.

More than 70,000 farmers and their supporters from labor, students, and other progressive forces took over Yeoido riverside park, near the National Assembly, to protest the World Trade Organization-led opening of the domestic rice market and a free trade agreement with Chile that further threatens the lives that toil in South Korea's breadbasket.



"The Korea-Chile FTA is against the common people. It just benefits rich people," said Yeon Tae, a Korean-Argentinian activist with the Peace and Reunification Movement. "Farmers work so much, but they don't receive any benefits. This is clearly unfair."

The National Association of Farmers organized the huge rally. Participants came by a platoon of buses that choked many roads leading into Seoul. They donned red, green, and yellow headbands and many wore white rice bags containing anti-WTO messages. At Yeoido subway station, a group of blue-jacketed students greeted incoming throngs with loud solidarity chants, and many farmers expressed their appreciation with hugs, hearty handshakes and toothless smiles. At the park, the massive crowd swelled against the Han river and two large stages. It was a colorful, teeming portrait of South Korea's countryside against the drab, grey backdrop of the cold metropolis.

Solidarity groups included the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, striking hospital workers, the Socialist Party, the Democratic Labor Party, and countless universities. Many civic and reunification organizations also attended. All strongly expressed their opposition to the WTO and the FTA.



Presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun spoke at the rally, condemning the WTO for destablizing South Korea's agricultural market and the government's first FTA with a Latin American country. "The agreement should be ratified after the nation finds common ground on the issue and protective measures are provided," he said. If elected, he promised to maintain high prices for rice farmers and fight for lower interest rates to decrease debts.

However, some protestors resented the presence of the Millenium Democratic Party candidate, pelting the podium with eggs and dirt and a cascade of boos.



After the rally ended, most of the protestors marched to nearby subway stations and bus stations and proceeded home. Several hundred students, farmers, and workers joined about 1,000 KCTU members, led by Korean Democratic Labor Party presidential candidate, Kwon Yeong-gil, held a small militant rally in front of the National Assembly. Chanting slogans condemning the proposed special economic zones, thousands of riot police, some wearing helmets decorated with a skull and crossbones--the symbol of death squads or Nazi SS in other regions of the world--surrounded the rally and prevented more farmers from joining their comrades. Some violent scuffles took place before protestors were forced to leave the area.




























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