Farmers Should Not Be GreedyFollowing recent blockades of a number of highways, farmers in Uisong, North Kyongsang Province, staged a violent rally a few days ago. They hurled stones at the police, demanding the immediate enactment of a special law to slash farm debts and a guarantee of stable agricultural and livestock prices. In the process, some riot policemen were hurt and for two hours Han Kap-soo, minister of agriculture and forestry, was unable to leave the function he was attending.
With their debts amounting to a whopping 38 trillion won ($32 billion), the frustration of farmers is understandable, particularly given that this debt is the result of haphazard agricultural policies and the opening of Korea''s agricultural market. However, the administration and the National Assembly have already prepared a proposal to relieve farmers'' debts, which will allow them to repay their agricultural loans with 5 percent annual interest over a five years after two years'' deferment. It is estimated that this measure will require a budget supplement of about 2.3 trillion won. If farmers believe that they can stage a menacing rally and create a frightening atmosphere in a bid to pressure bureaucrats and politicians to play to their tune, they are being totally unreasonable.
In fact, many people level the criticism that the proposed special act is an excessively political decision. They say that even if farmers are struggling, the repeated cancellation of their debt is unfair for those hardworking farmers who have not incurred debts. Some even argue that such a measure should also be extended to the urban poor in order to keep the balance of beneficiaries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as well as the Ministry of Planning and Budget complain that this political decision, made with farmers'' votes in mind, will exacerbate the failure of the agricultural administration.
Considering the situation, violent rallies by farmers will not help resolve the matter but instead will serve to alienate other sectors of the population. The farmers must do a lot of thinking about whether they are totally free from blame for the current state of affairs.
by Lew Seok-choon