[Letter to the editor]Protect farmers, but proceed with FTA

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[Letter to the editor]Protect farmers, but proceed with FTA

I think a free trade agreement will benefit Korea greatly, not only economically but also politically. Since Korea’s economy is heavily dependent on exports, an FTA would offer Korea a great opportunity to make inroads in the U.S., one of its major trading partners. At the same time, foreign direct investment would increase significantly. This would lead to an influx of capital and the creation of jobs. In addition, through exchanges of technology and human resources, Korean enterprises will be able to increase their competitiveness and boost productivity.
The FTA will also be beneficial in political terms. With the United States being one of Korea’s closest allies, the FTA would improve diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Some fear the possibility of Korea becoming an economic colony of the United States. They say that free trade with the only superpower in the world would be a threat to Korea, and would severely harm the economy.
However, opening various sectors, including ones that may be less competitive, does not necessarily mean our economy would be subordinated to the United States.
As various sectors are exposed to the free market, competition among different sectors will take place, presenting Korea a great opportunity to improve its competitiveness.
I would like to point out that Korea’s agricultural sector is a minor sector; it constitutes a small part of Korea’s entire economy.
It would be unwise to abandon the FTA because of a minor sector that contributes little to the Korean economy. Instead, the Korean government should devise a well-structured compensation system for those who would get hurt by the FTA.
It also needs to find a way to disperse the population now committed to agriculture into other job fields. Korea’s population in the agriculture sector is 5 percent, which is still high compared with other developed countries.
Those who oppose the FTA often mention NAFTA, a free trade agreement signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico, pointing out that polarization became worse after free trade began. This will not be the case in Korea if it can establish a compensation system good enough to cover people who would not benefit from the FTA. As an example, the United States has adopted a program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program available to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports. It helps workers through job retraining, job search allowances, relocation allowances and re-employment services. Korea should adopt a similar program that would protect workers and farmers at the same time.
Yoo Mi-jong,
a senior at Daeil Foreign Language High School
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