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Nyéléni 2007 - Forum for Food Sovereignty. 23rd - 27th February 2007. Sélingué. Mali
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Struggle against neoliberalism and alternative plan in Korea
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Korean farmers have fought against policies to open agricultural markets for several years. Under 36 years of Japanese rule and exploitation, we had to use Japanese food supply. Then we were forced to consume the agricultural surpluses of the US since 1945 when the American military government ruled Korea. As a result, Korean was ruined.

This short history shows that the development of Korean agriculture was blocked by foreign power. The rate of food self-sufficiency has decreased due to American agricultural surpluses. This is threatening food sovereignty. In addition, due to the emergence of the WTO, the liberalization in the agricultural sector has expanded. So the exodus of farmers from the country begins to accelerate. It decreases the population in rural areas; it decreases the rate of food self-sufficiency, and farmer’s incomes. Therefore, farmers are suffering more than before. Korean farmers have fought against neo-liberalism and globalization. KPL, the leading organization has struggled to derail the ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico in 2003 and in Hong Kong in 2005. We also struggled against the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) between Korea and Chile for 3 years. Now we are fighting against the FTA between Korea and U.S and we keep struggling against the WTO.

Korean Fight against neoliberalism

KPL, which initiated the struggle against the Uruguay Round (UR) negotiation in 1994, established a coalition of a nationwide movement comprising 300 social organizations and fought against the ratification to approve the Korean accession. On February 1st, 1994 over 40,000 farmers gathered in Seoul to hold a massive farmers’ rally for UR renegotiation and agrarian reform and against ratification in the National Assembly. Farmers from all over the nation surrounded the National Assembly building and fought strenuously demanding not to join the WTO. At that time police violently repressed the farmers shooting tear gas.As a result hundreds of farmers were arrested. On November 29th, 1994, farmers from the whole country assembled and held nationwide farmers’ rally against WTO accession and calling for securing the cost of rice production. But the government repressed the struggle violently and approved the WTO accession. So we started a long-term anti-globalization struggle.

On December 10th, 1999 over 20,000 farmers participated in a nationwide farmers’ rally against the WTO, and marched toward the Blue House. During the march, about 200 farmers were injured, around 30 farmers were arrested and about 19 farmers were detained. Farmers go very angry. In 2000, the government announced that he was negotiating a FTA with Chile: it was like launching a battle against farmers.

The struggle against the FTA between Korea and Chile started in 2000. About 2000 farmers’ leaders gathered in the Integrated Government Building on March 5th and held a massive rally. Thanks to the persistent and devoted farmer’s struggle, the negotiation was postponed. Following this event, several protests were organized: nationwide struggle of 200,000 farmers on October 20th, 2001; struggle of 300,000 farmers in Seoul on January 13th, 2003; and especially, the 114 days struggle of the rural people in Seoul showed the degree of farmers’ resentment. Eventually, 4 years anti-FTA struggle were brutally repressed by the government and couldn’t achieve its goal. The FTA was finally ratified by the National Assembly in February 2004. Therefore, farmer’s conditions got worse; they are suffering from economic hardship.

Struggle to stop WTO Ministerial meetings

It is the increase of imported agricultural products that makes farmers’lives harder. After the emergence of the WTO, the real farmer’s income has decreased and rural areas are devastated by the exodus of young farmers. The number of farmers has decreased from 10 million to 4 million and the population in rural areas is ageing (the average of age reached 60). In addition there’s no more baby crying in rural areas. Because of the heavy burden of the debt, many farmers choose to commit suicide. The more Korean farmers realize that Korean agriculture and farmers are collapsing due to neo-liberalism and globalization, the more they need to stop the WTO negotiation. With KPL as a leading organization, other Korean farmers’ groups prepared to block the 5th WTO Ministerial meeting. 1,000 farmers and 100 workers organized a team that went to Cancun, Mexico. They fought to derail the ministerial meeting. In the middle of the struggle, Lee Kyung Hae sacrificed his life. Nationwide, 80,000 farmers held a commemorative ceremony and held an anti-WTO rally on November 19th. During that time, farmers fought a strenuous anti-globalization struggle. (2) Struggle to stop the ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in 2005. The anti-WTO struggle in Korea has focused on stopping the opening up of agricultural markets. For one year, we focused more specifically on opposing the opening of the rice market for a year. We prepared the struggle against the opening up of the rice market and WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong for one year. Thousands of farmers held a powerful struggle against the government that promotes opening up rice market on 15th November. When millions of farmers marched toward the National Assembly building, the police violently suppressed them. In the middle of the struggle, hundreds of farmers got injured and two farmers due to police brutality. Social groups established nationwide committee to make counter plan demanding the punishment of the person responsible for the death of the two farmers and asking the president to apologize. Through strenuous struggle, we gained a victory as the president’s apologized and the Chief of the police resigned. Nevertheless, the opening of

the rice market was approved by the National Assembly. Over 1,000 Korean farmers in Hong Kong shook the WTO ministerial meeting through anti-WTO struggle. The reputation of Korean farmers was also enhanced within the international solidarity movement.

Crisis of the Korean agriculture and farmer’s struggle

The U.S centered multinational capital moved into bilateral negotiations as the WTO negotiations were going through crisis. Based on the information issued by our government, we can expect that agriculture will go bankrupt if the FTA between Korea and the U.S. is conclude because farmers’ income will be reduced by a half. With KPL as a leading organization, 42 farmers groups established an agro-livestock committee in order to stop the FTA. On April 15th, 2006 thousands of farmers, workers, movie makers and stars gathered to hold the first national rally. They called to a mobilization of one million people in November, designating 2006 as the year of anti-FTA struggle. National struggle of one million people

2(1) Establishing regional committees to make counter plan in May and June.2

We are going to mobilize wide-range of organizations including farmers, workers, and social groups, hold meeting and educate them. We are going to organize commentative group of one thousands. We can take advantage of the regional elections and continue the struggle to judge the political forces that approves FTA with the U.S.

2(2) Sit-in Strike in Seoul in June2

  Regional Committee and section committees (There are 14 section committees so far) organize the national rally and elevate unity and solidarity among each section through continuous sit-in strike.
  We denounce the first round of negotiations in the U.S in June. We hold a rally in front of the Blue House to make the negotiation ineffective.
  We organize the second rally against the negotiations in Seoul in June.

2 (3) We form the second national rally against the negotiations in Seoul in July.2

We organize the second large scale national rally through the work and education done in May and June.

Considering the characteristics of the negotiations, there’s a possibility that the negotiation goes faster than we expect, even though we are not ready. The negotiation in Seoul might issue a proposal. Therefore, we need to launch an active struggle to stop the reckless intention of government. At the same time, we prepare a large scale protest in July to trigger the national rally in November.

24) We organize lecture for people in July.2

We are going to prepare lectures for the people to build up the atmosphere for national rally. The ideological struggle against FTA will transcend our imagination. The major newspapers, Jo-Seon, Jung-Ang, and Dong-A which are the most conservative, blame the anti-FTA movement of collective selfishness by building up splitting up the public opinion between exclusivity and openness. It inflates the disruption in public opinion like history. Our strategy to fight this battle is to approach toward farmers on the ground. We are going to form regional committees and prepare lectures for rural people so that we can initiate the public debate on the ground. Therefore, we can lead people to struggle against the oppression.

2)One million people national rally in November2

3(a) We bring a million people together.3

  The rally proceeds in each province. It is too difficult for us to gather one million people in Seoul. So each province hold rallies and we have to gather our power and trigger people’s movement by this simultaneous struggle

3 (b)We prepare a long-term struggle. The massive rally in November3

should be the culmination of our struggle. But our struggle is continuous. Concentrating our protest just for one day is no use if the police and the press isolate us from the people. We need to guarantee the stronghold in each region. - We have to learn from our struggle in June 1987. So we prepare during day time and start the protest in the evening. After school or work, students and workers gather stronghold and hold a rallies. If they don’t surrender, we have to do concentrated struggle and make them surrender.

IV. Closing

The anti-globalization and neo-liberalism struggle which has been waged for several years is heading gradually toward victory. Farmers’ organized protests are neutralizing WTO negotiation and blocking the FTA between Korea and U.S. This is made possible because of the persistent struggle of the Korean farmers and international solidarity. National farmers’ rally in November will grow like snowball and block the Roh’s government policy which is against farmers and the intention that U.S wants to rule Korean economy. Finally we will restore hope and make a new society by the people. We will keep fighting until the victory.