Protests against Korea-U.S. FTA greet 7th round of negotiations

The writer is the national staff coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. She participated in all the days and nights of protests.

Braving single-digit temperatures, snow and freezing rain, and heavy winds, protestors took to Washington, D.C., streets during the seventh round of negotiations between the U.S. and South Korean governments. They are attempting to reach an agreement for a bilateral free trade agreement.

If concluded, the agreement will be the largest FTA since NAFTA. It will have a detrimental impact on workers and


Protesters stage sit-in in front of hotel where negotiations were taking place, Feb. 12.

farmers in Korea and the United States, as NAFTA did on workers and farmers in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Organized by the two major coalitions that formed to oppose the KorUS FTA—the Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA (KoA), based in South Korea, and Korean Americans Against War And Neoliberalism (KAWAN), based in the United States—the events took place from Feb. 11-14.

Nearly 20 leaders traveled from South Korea to participate, including representatives of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the Korean Peasants League and the Korean Advanced Farmers Federation. They were supported and attended by many local and national organizations, including the ANSWER Coalition, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, the Justice Committee, the Audre Lorde Project and the Mexico Solidarity Network.

Negotiations for the KorUS FTA began last June in Washington. Originally, four rounds of negotiations were scheduled for June, July, September and October. But after failing to reach an agreement, additional rounds were added.

An eighth round has now been scheduled for March 8 to 20 in Seoul, South Korea—twice the length of the other rounds of negotiations. Additional high-level talks are also planned, including a teleconference between U.S. President George Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.

Week of struggle in Washington, D.C.

Throughout the negotiations, demonstrators maintained an almost constant presence immediately outside of the negotiations, which took place at the Washington Court Hotel near Union Station.

The events began at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11, with an opening press conference at the negotiations site. In the afternoon, a march began at Malcolm X Park and went through busy commercial and residential areas in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and U Street. The march concluded at the White House, where an opening rally took place.

Click here to read ANSWER Coalition’s statement delivered at the rally.

The group then returned to the negotiations site for a rally to open the all-night tent vigil. Two tents were pitched on the sidewalk right outside of the negotiations site; groups remained throughout the night.

On the morning of Feb. 12, many more joined those who had carried out the overnight vigil for a rally at the negotiations site at 9:00 a.m. In the afternoon, there was a rally co-sponsored by the KCTU and FKTU union federations from South Korea, and the AFL-CIO and Change to Win union federations from the United States.

Following this rally, the group marched onto the driveway of the hotel where the negotiations were taking place. A smaller group attempted to enter the hotel. After being blocked by police and security, the entire group sat down on the hotel driveway and sidewalk immediately outside of the front entrance and vowed to remain the rest of the day and night.

The group maintained the sit-in on the hotel driveway all day and night. Throughout the night, supporters came, bringing blankets, warm drinks and food. In the morning of Feb. 13, the group held on a morning rally on the hotel driveway. After remaining for almost 23 hours, police moved in and threatened the entire group with arrest if they did not leave the area.

Following various meetings throughout the day, the group returned to the negotiations site at 9:00 p.m. and continued a chant, speak, drum and generally make their voices heard until 1:30 a.m. This continued even as freezing rain covered them with ice.

Feb. 14 was the final day of negotiations and protests. The day included a 9:00 a.m. morning rally at the negotiations site, an afternoon rally outside of the South Korean embassy and a closing rally at the negotiations site.

Protests in South Korea continue

During the negotiations in the United States, protests continued in South Korea.

On Feb. 12, hundreds of farmers converged on Seoul for actions which included the release of farm animals on busy bridges in the city. Over 500 people maintained an all-night vigil. Following the negotiations, on Feb. 16, organizations carried out a major day of outreach throughout Seoul.

Despite severe repression of all anti-FTA activities that has been continuing in South Korea since November 2006, opposition to the agreement remains high. Protests continue on a regular basis and are planned to take place during the eighth round of negotiations.

The South Korean anti-FTA coalition KoA believes that “February and March will become a crucial month for mass mobilization both domestically and internationally.” (KoA No FTA Newsletter #3, Feb. 16)

Click here for’s past coverage of actions against the KorUS FTA.

Related Articles

Back to top button