Friday, November 18, 2005

APEC protest: sources

(Pusan Protests)

Well, there is lots of coverage and analysis to provide on Friday's APEC protests which will take a little more time than I have today, so this post will be more of a nod to other posts so readers, and I, can try to grasp exactly what happened.

CNN has a short story and video on the farmers protest against plans to open the rice market. Monsters and critics also had an early report on protests but their numbers, along with CNN's are inaccurate. As mentioned earlier, protests groups expected around 100,000 participants in Friday protest, but, as Kotaji remarks, the police (combined, thhere were over 50,000 police and other security personel) interferred with the buses that protest groups had hired and were also able to block many from congregating near the bridge leading to the Haeundae Beach resort area where the conference was being held, nevertheless, between 15-30,000 still made it to the bridges near the BEXCO convention center. From Kotaji's blog:

As the day wore on it seems that protestors converged towards the bridge connecting the city to the area where the summit was being held. Here they were met by thousands of riot police (a total of 30,000 were deployed in all apparently) with a barricade of buses and shipping containers. As might be expected, some some pitched battles broke out between the bamboo-spear wieldingfarmers and the riot police, who began to respond with water cannon. In the tradition of Korean demonstrations things got quite extreme with riot police apparently wielding 3-metre-long metal pipes at demonstrators and angry protestors responding by using ropes to pull the shipping containers from the barricades and into the sea. The fighting went on after dark, but it seems that the police were eventually able to disperse the protestors without too much trouble.


The Korea Times also reports that protests continued on Saturday, this time at the subway station in Haeundae, about 4km from the conference site, but protestors were surrounded at the station and no skirmishes broke out.

Apec has sparked a tradition of oppositional protest to its yearly meetings, a brief, and not very critical, summary of which you can find in the globe and mail's article on Busan here. For a more interesting look on how the protest was percieved on the ground in Busan, here is an article in the Asia times.

In terms of the summit itself, I'm not exactly sure what was accomplished as APEC tends to act more as a coordinating body rather than a specific framework for economic and political issues. However, for Korea directly, there has been pressure to expand the rice import quota to 7.96 percent by 2014, under WTO rules. In a joint statement, APEC leaders didn't say much except promise to help fight bird flu and express their support for the Doha development round of the WTO which still may collapse anyways over the issue of agricultural subsidies.

This is all I have time to post at the moment, but in the next few days it would be worthwhile to discuss some of the issues around the nature of APEC itself, perhaps hazarding a few comments on why farmers and students seem to have had a bigger role than workers (please hazard your own comments as well if you have time); I think it's also worthwhile to think about the geography of the protest and the role of the police and local government played in obstructing routes to the meeting and limiting other sites of protest. Some of their other spatial strategies seem common to APEC and WTO protests in general (such as designated off-site protest pens and other such zonal strategies). There is also the issue of hype created around 'anti globalization' activists coming to protest which you can read on our earlier posts.

All for now.....

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