News / Asia

South Korean Opposition Raises New Objections to US Trade Pact

South Korean protesters hold candles during a rally against a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the United States in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 5, 2011.
South Korean protesters hold candles during a rally against a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between South Korea and the United States in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 5, 2011.

South Korea's governing party says it intends to have the National Assembly quickly ratify a critical trade agreement with the United States. But that could lead to rival lawmakers again coming to blows - something that takes place from time to time in South Korea.   

New objections raised by opposition politicians have been thwarting the South Korean government's desire to finally ratify a major trade pact signed with the United States nearly four-and-half years ago.

Electoral background

Some politicians are hoping last-minute negotiations prevent what could turn into a physical clash between lawmakers.

The Grand National Party has enough votes in the National Assembly to push through ratification, even if all assembly members from opposition parties object. But, with legislative and presidential elections on the horizon for next year, the governing party wants to avoid strong-arm measures that could further erode its public support.

Although the South Korean political opposition, led by the Democratic Party, supported the trade deal when it was in power under the previous administration, in 2007, it is upset with modifications negotiated with Washington last year. Opponents also say the changes unfairly benefit American automakers and will harm South Korean farmers and industries.

Mayor's objections

Among those objecting to the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, in its present form, is Seoul's new mayor, Park Won-soon.  He is an independent who was elected two weeks ago with the unified support of liberal opposition parties.

Although it is rare for a metropolitan mayor to take a stance on matters of national policy, Park says the trade pact needs to be reviewed to determine all implications it will have on citizens and small businesses in the capital city of 10 million people.

For example, Park contends the agreement with the United States will override city regulations meant to protect neighborhood shops from an influx of competition from supermarkets and other big stores.

Some opposition lawmakers are demanding South Korean President Lee Myung-bak meet with U.S. President Barack Obama to remove a dispute resolution clause.

Investor-state dispute clause

The investor-state dispute clause allows lawsuits against governments to be settled by an international arbitration panel.

It is standard in many FTAs, but it has sparked a strong backlash here in recent days.

Supporters of the pact, say false information is being spread through social media about the clause.  For example various online messages being widely relayed claim the agreement will lead to an epidemic of mad cow disease, wipe out rice farming, flood the streets with guns and privatize medical services.

The U.S. Congress ratified the agreement last month and President Obama has signed it into law.

South Korea's government had hoped to have legislative ratification by now so the act could take effect by January First. But opposition lawmakers have occupied a committee room to thwart the deal from being sent to the full assembly.

Industry groups favoring the pact say it is expected to boost two-way trade by more than $15 billion, annually.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs