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Two Hundred Thousand Farmers Protest Against Rice Market Opening in Korea
Donga
Farmers’ rallies protesting the opening of the rice market took place simultaneously in more than 90 places nationwide on September 10.
Protestors in some areas returned their tools and machines and faced a physical fight with police, but overall, protests proceeded without any major problems.
Some local governments decided on that day to hold a “Pros and Cons Voting of the Rice Market Opening,” accepting the farmers’ opinions, which will likely bring about controversies.
Protests led by the National Movement Headquarters of Protecting Food Sovereignty and the Korea Advanced Farmers’ Association not only included farmers as participants, but also religious leaders, laborers, and college students.
The protests also accommodated a memorial service for Lee Kyoung-hae who killed himself during the summit meeting of the World Trade Organization in Cancun, Mexico on September 11 last year.
Regional Gatherings—
The National Movement Headquarters, in which more than 100 civic and social organizations participated, including the National Farmers’ Alliance, held a press conference in the morning of September 10 and announced that they are holding a “Inherited Heroic Lee Kyoung-hae Spirit and Food Sovereignty Protection Rally to Guard Our Rice.”
They estimate that about 200,000 participants will take the streets in 90 different locations nationwide, including Goheung, Jeonnam, Jinjoo, Gyeongnam, and Jungeup, Jeonbuk.
The Jeonnam Movement Headqurters in Gwangju held a “Resolution Rally for Guarding Food Sovereignty” at the Gwangju station at 4 p.m. with 600 participants of farmers and students and marched to Geumnamro.
The Advanced Farmers’ Association also held both separate and joint “3,500,000 Farmer Struggle Proclamation” and “first anniversary memorial service for the heroic death of Lee Kyoung-hae” rallies with the National Movement Headquarters in 60 places throughout the country. Members of the association in Namwon, Jeonbuk, Chilgok, Gyeongnam, and other places have returned about 100 agricultural tools and machines to their local governments as symbols of their protest.
Another 10 members of the association in Jeonam brought out 20 sacks of Chinese rice from an imported rice warehouse in Iksan that morning and poured 10 of them over the front yard of a pounding factory.
Opposition Increases— The National Movement Headquarters will hold the “Inheriting Heroic Lee Kyoung-hae Spirit and Food Sovereignty Protection Rally to Guard Our Rice” and an “Anti-WTO, Anti-Doha Development Agenda Pan-national Rally” in Daehakno, Seoul on September 11 as well.
Also, similar rallies will be held nationwide in Yongji Park in Changwon, Gyeongnam, Gwangju Station Square, and National Debt Payment Park in Daegu, as well as other places.
The National Farmers’ Association will hold “Rice Paddy Demolishing” protests on September 22 nationwide and will be increasing the level of struggle in October to overnight tent protests, refusals to send off agricultural produces, refusals to pay back debts, as well as other measures.
What Farmers Insist—
The National Movement Headquarters said, “We firmly oppose to legislative revisions concerning agriculture and farming communities with the premise of the rice market opening negotiations and the open market policy held unilaterally by the government,” and added, “President Roh Moo-hyun should meet with the leaders of farmers’ organizations immediately and come up with plans to revive the farming communities.”
The headquarters added, “If the government proceeds with a set of policies that will kill the farming communities against the people’s will, it will have to face even greater resistance, and the government has to be responsible for it.”
The Farmers’ Alliance also requested the following: adherence to the rice tariff extension and opposition to additional opening of the rice market, legislative planning for food self-sufficiency, revisions in the Agricultural Co-operative laws this year, and establishing the Co-op Reform Committee within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as others.
Local Governments Will Put the Rice Market Opening Up for Voting—
Controversies will arise over the decision by some local governments to hold a “Resident Pros and Cons Voting for Rice Market Opening.” The local governments, including the Jeonnam local government, have accepted the farmers’ request to hold the vote.
Hampyong County president Lee Sok-young promised at the county people’s rally that he “will put the rice market opening up for a ‘pros and cons voting’ if the people desire.”
It is known that other local governments also have entered a legal examination process for the voting.
MGR Archive 12.9.2004
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