Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What a wet day!

Despite record rainfall, thousands of protestors came out to protest the HanMi FTA (or Korea-US FTA depending on what language you use). Anyways, I'm still drying off, but I'll post some pictures of the event in the coming day or so.

In the meantime here is a report from yonhap.

Tens of thousands rally in Seoul despite rain

Despite torrential rains, tens of thousands of South Korean activists and farmers staged anti-U.S. rallies Wednesday, denouncing their government's free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Washington as a form of "U.S. economic colonialism."

About 70,000 anti-globalization protesters gathered in front of Seoul City Hall after holding separate demonstrations across the capital, said officials at the Korean Alliance against Korea-U.S. FTA, an association of anti-FTA civic groups in South Korea.

Police estimated the number of protesters at 37,000.

Police said they deployed more than 20,000 riot police to prevent the rallies from turning violent, but there were no immediate reports of injuries and arrests, police officers said.

The protesters plan to march towards the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae later Wednesday, raising concern over possible clashes with riot police.

During the rally near the city hall, the protesters, clad in raincoats, chanted anti-American slogans such as "We oppose U.S. economic colonialism." They also held pickets which read, "The FTA is handing over our entire economy to the U.S." and "The economic invasion. War threats. The U.S. is an axis of evil."

South Korean farmers, laborers and activists have conducted anti-FTA demonstrations since Monday, when South Korea and the U.S. opened their second round of FTA talks in Seoul with the aim of signing a deal by early next year. The protesters say the FTA would threaten their livelihood.

The afternoon rally snarled traffic in central Seoul, and is expected to cause further congestion during the evening rush hours as heavy rains battered the Seoul metropolitan area.

Seoul received nearly 200 millimeters of rain as of 3 p.m. and weather officials forecast the downpour would continue until Thursday morning.

In a related development, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a major umbrella trade union, implemented a six-hour strike Wednesday to protest the ongoing trade liberalization talks.

The labor union claimed 170,000 union members participated in the walkout but police put the number at 74,000.

A group of U.S. labor activists have also been participating in the anti-FTA rallies in South Korea.

"The gap between the rich and the poor has increased in every country that has concluded a free trade agreement with the U.S."

said Jeff Vogt, policy director for the AFL-CIO, at a press conference. "It logically follows how it will happen in Korea."

Not all South Koreans oppose the FTA talks. About 300 pro-business activists rallied Wednesday to support the government's move to sign the trade deal.

This week's trade talks are to continue until Friday. The first round was held in Washington last month.

Seoul, July 12 (Yonhap News)

One more thing... Here's a good story that details more the unequal fta negotions over medicine and medical patents, creepy.

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