News / Asia

    South Korean President Proposes Deal for US Trade Pact

    South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, left, shakes hands with Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the leading opposition Democratic Party, before their meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul, Noyember15, 2011.
    South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, left, shakes hands with Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the leading opposition Democratic Party, before their meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul, Noyember15, 2011.

    South Korea's president has made an unprecedented visit to the country's legislature to press for ratification of a critical trade agreement signed with the United States. But his personal appeal did not immediately break a deadlock. 

    South Korean lawmakers say President Lee Myung-bak promised them if they ratify the trade pact he will request that Washington re-open negotiations about a controversial clause.

    Kim Ki-hyun, the spokesman for the governing Grand National Party, says the president pledged to legislators he would insist, within three months after ratification, the United States hold talks with South Korea about the investor-state dispute - or ISD - clause.

    The offer came during Lee's first such visit to the National Assembly since he took office in early 2008.

    The pact, known as the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, was signed nearly four-and-a-half years ago.

    The deal would be the most significant such agreement for the United States since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

    Minor modifications, interpreted as concessions by South Korea which mainly affect U.S. concerns about access to the automotive sector, were made at the end of last year.

    The agreement was ratified by the U.S. Congress last month. Since then domestic opponents have waged a campaign to re-open negotiations with the United States, which the administration here has called unrealistic.

    South Korean critics of the agreement demand removal of the ISD clause that would allow foreign investors to take disputes to an international arbitration panel. They call the provision an infringement of South Korea's sovereignty and had insisted President Lee discuss their objections with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the just-concluded APEC summit in Hawaii.

    The South Korean presidential office says no such meeting took place.

    Democratic Party spokesman Lee Yong-sub says his fellow DP lawmakers will meet Wednesday to consider the president’s proposal to seek new negotiations with the United States, but only after the pact's passage in Seoul.

    The opposition party spokesman says at this juncture the Democrats' stance remains that the ISD clause is not acceptable.

    The last-minute debate has erupted into an emotional public issue.

    Opponents, including farmers, have held several - mostly peaceful - street rallies and some lawmakers continue to barricade a meeting room to block approval by a key legislative committee.

    A legislator from the Grand National Party, which supports passage, says he is on a hunger strike demanding the agreement be approved without violence. Some citizens favoring the legislation have protested outside GNP lawmakers' offices, calling them weak for not forcing the pact through the National Assembly.

    Although the governing GNP has enough votes to ram through ratification, it wants to avoid a likely violent confrontation with the opposition that would follow.

    Analysts say both sides are maneuvering in anticipation of next year's legislative and presidential elections and at a time of rising public discontent with both of the major political parties.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.