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Commentary :: Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor : Politics : Social Welfare
Anniversary of Lee Kyung Hae --- Report from the Korean Farmers League
02 Feb 2006
Remember the struggle! Remember Kyung Hae!
Click on image for a larger version

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10th September, 2003. Farmer Lee Kyung Hae stabbed a knife into his heart on top of police barricades in Cancun, Mexico. "WTO kills farmers!" were his last words, we believe. Today we are back on the streets again. Despite the desperate demands from people all round the world, WTO negotiations continue and the Korean government, while fulfilling its commitments to the WTO, continues to promote liberalization of the Korean rice market, and reduction of government control.

During the last ten years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) that appeared as a result of the Uruguay Rounds; and the recently promoted FTAs, are being driven forward towards one aim - to maximize profit of transnational capital by liberalizing agriculture and driving millions of happy workers away from subsistence farming, and into other, less traditional lines of work. The WTO and FTAs are not merely trade organizations or agreements - they have become neoliberal doctrines and transnational laws regulating trade, and thus every aspect of our economic lives.

Despite the decade of misery and endangering of the planet, transnational capital and the WTO are still pushing their agendas forward. They are telling Korea, with a mere 25% food self-sufficiency, to open up our lifeline - our rice - and trade it for ingredients that other countries produce. They are making our farmers grow enriched GMO rice, containing the DNA of other organisms in addition to the vitamins and nutrients they claim we need. Also, on 1st August, despite resistance from developing countries and peoples around the world, the WTO agreed upon the framework for the Doha Development Agenda. The Noh Moo Hyun government, in accordance with the trend, is also actively promoting FTAs with Singapore, Japan, ASEAN, EFTA and other numerous countries. They try and let freedom dictate how we trade. In some ways, the last decade seems to have been a rehearsal for times to come.

The struggle to stop liberalization of rice and to protect food sovereignty is a struggle for subsistence farmers' livelihood and the long-standing heritage of quaintness it brings. The true meaning of food sovereignty is producing and consuming food according to our "needs", not selfish wants; and to be able to collectively decide what and how much we will grow and eat. The democratization of diet is key to our future. Also, it is the task of all of us to stop the WTO from depriving us of our education, healthcare, culture, water, traditional recopies, genetic diversity, and essential services -- all of which we believe to be The Commons. Food and public services are a matter of life - they are our common assets! They are the commons and should be subject to the tragedy of such. They are our rights! They should not be ours to trade and commodify.

We remember the struggle, last year, of teachers and students against the submission of GATS offers, and also the struggle of peasants against the Korea-Chile FTA. And today is almost the one and a half year anniversary of the Cancun struggle, in which 180 impoverished Korean workers, peasants and activists saved enough rice to pay for travel all the way to Mexico to fight with our international comrades against the ministerial, and also in which Lee Kyung Hae sacrificed his life. Just as the hardship & struggle in Cancun became that of today, let the hardship and struggle of today become even stronger tomorrow! Our future lies ahead of us! We must be ready.

[The following are photos taken during the Korean Farmers League's protest of Globalization and Corporate Domination in Cancun, Mexico. ¡vive la revolución del precio bajo!]
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