[EDITORIALS]Consensus on rice marketThe negotiations on the opening of Korea’s rice market will resume next month. Korea should conclude negotiations with six countries, including the United States and China, by the end of the year. Although Korea aims to delay the complete opening of the market, it could be more beneficial to open it completely now while imposing import duties if it has to pay an excessive price for the suspension by accepting a greatly increased mandatory import quota. Considering these circumstances, the government said that it will not insist on a suspension unconditionally but will take a practical approach that can protect our national interest.
Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, the damage it will inflict on Korean farm households will be greater than now. Therefore, drawing a social consensus on the issue domestically is no less important than a successful negotiation with export countries. The violent reaction of farmers during the ratification of the free trade agreement with Chile could be repeated.
The government must find a practical way by which Korea can strengthen its agricultural competitiveness. It has failed to gain the confidence of farmers in the meantime. It has paid trillions of won to farmers as subsidies over the 10 years since the Uruguay Round agreements were concluded, but the situation of Korean farmers has gotten even worse. This is because the government’s policies were impractical or for show. This is why the farmers scoffed at the government’s announcement early this year that it will invest 119 trillion won ($103 billion) over the next 10 years to save the farming sector.
The political community must also cooperate. Politicians should not be swayed by regional sentiment and the number of votes. We must have the courage to persuade people to join in an effort to find a way to maximize our national interest. Minimizing social conflict is the politicians’ duty. We have to tell farmers to cooperate in an effort to find a way to survive instead of opposing the government’s policy. We have to learn from the Japanese experience of minimizing the shock through a consensus among farmers’ organizations, politicians and the government to accept an import duty on rice.