Thursday, June 15, 2006

KorUS FTA -- More Materials

An earlier post on the Korea America Free Trade Agreement negotiations currently underway in Washington linked to a number of info sources on the topic but I just thought I would add a few more.

The KCTU, FKTU, AFL-CIO and other American unions have a realeased a joint statement which you can read here; the KCTU has their own statement which you can view here as well. The documents point to deteriorating labour standards in both countries, points which have been well supported in both a recent speech by the head of the KCTU and an online solidarity campaign by the Building and Wood Workers International.

It seems that there is still a lot of resistance to casualization and irregularization of work in South Korea. The documents above point to some of the recent high profile cases such as the locked out KTX workers who have faced police violence in recent weeks. Just this week a union of both regular, irregular, and contract workers was also formed, becoming, at least formally, the first of its kind.

As for the FTA negotiations themselves, seems the national assembly is coming under pressure from many sectors, especially agriculture, for concluding a very whimpy first round, conceding to the US even in areas of apparent strength.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Korean Migrant Worker News -- Courtesy MWTV

As you can see by my volume of posts today, I'm finally back to regular posting and am trying to clear away a backlog of stuff that I've left by the way side while I moved. As most will probably know, it is really difficult to keep up to date with Korean social movement news in english because organizations switch sites frequently or loose steam and pass the job onto other groups. Years ago Base 21 was doing a great job, but eventually that too fell by the wayside, all its reporting lost, I guess, as the site now seems vacant.

Anyways, I just thought I'd mention the lovely job that Migrant Workers Television has been doing by broadcasting multilingual migrant worker (and some Korean) news each week. To top that off they reprint their scripts on their website ( Seems there has been lots of news to report recently, including some positive news on changes in the law around foreign victims of domestic violence. There is also the negative news of more harrasment against migrants on the job the tragic injuries of migrants fleeing immigration crackdoes. For these stories and more please click on the links for MWTV english for May. Click here for their 20th broadcast script and here for their 19th.

Blind Masseurs Opposing Court's Decision

I had to post something briefly on this issue because I keep seeing video of blind masseurs jumping into the Han River off the Mapo bridge near where I live. They seem to have built a hanging platform and are occupying it. Police in boats seem to pick up whoever jumps.

As the Choson reports "

The Constitutional Court by a majority of seven to one [last] Friday ruled against a law that reserves the occupation of masseur for the blind or vision-impaired.

The court reasoned the law infringes on the freedom of occupation stipulated in the Constitution.

The ruling clears the way for anyone to become a masseur but may threaten the livelihood of vision-impaired masseurs. The Korean Masseurs Association said the ruling was tantamount to depriving visually disabled people of the only means to make a living. “It is the same as telling us to leave the country,” it said.

And, according to Arirang TV, protestors gathered in front of the Constitutional Court in Seoul on Monday. I also saw footage of them blocking the subway as well on tuesday, delaying trains substantially.

Curious how this issue will be resolved. This was the first I had heard of it.

In other news, the GNP seems to have won most of the municipal and regional seats in yesterday's election, but you can read about that just about anywhere.

Korea-America FTA -- Resources

I've come across a few resources lately on the Korea-America FTA that is currently being negotiated., a site that is tracking the proliferation of bilateral trade agreements (a suppossed alternative to both the collective strength of developing countries and regional blocs at the WTO, as well as the WTO's own inertia) has a special page on the Korea - US FTA that seems to be updated frequently.

The Korean Alliance against the Korea-US FTA has an english site (NoFTA); however, besides a small inaugral position paper, there is not much content as of yet. Their Korean site, however, seems to have quite a lot of info. Gomediaction has an advertisement for their upcoming protest on June 3rd as well as info a number of events planned around the visit of a Korean delegation to the US to publicize the problems of the Han-Mi (Korea US) FTA.

Finally, the Korea Economic Institute (which seems to be a lobbying organization based in Washington, DC) has a US-Korea FTA Resource Center page with lots of links to testimony from various industry groups and other stakeholders -- well, uhem, actually more 'shareholders' than stakeholders seem to be represented.

UPDATE -- June 5th: Here's a longer story in the Asia Times on the arrival of the Korean delegation and some of the more conflictual negotiating areas.

Pyeongtaek Update: Letter from village headman

As a way to update our earlier posts on the continuing Pyeongtaek protests in South Korea, here's the link to a posting over a frog in a well from one of the arrested village 'headmen' involved in the protest.