The president gets it rightThe farmers have become the latest target for one of President Roh Moo-hyun’s bitter homilies. He said farms produce commercial goods and thus must deal with the market. He added that if farm products are not price-competitive, farmers will have difficulty staying in business. He finished by urging farmers to face reality.
For once, everything he said is right. Farming is such a sensitive issue that former presidents avoided the topic. As a result, pressure to open our markets has increased while the farming industry has become less competitive. President Roh painted an honest picture of the realities that face our farming industry and that was a courageous act.
It is satisfying that the president’s determination to secure a free trade agreement with Washington has remained as strong as before. President Roh said he mustered the determination and willpower to push for a free trade accord with Washington despite the risk of public opprobrium. He criticized progressive politicians for staging protests against the bilateral trade agreement and claiming, dishonestly, that Korea would become a dumping ground for contaminated beef once the agreement was signed.
The president also said he decided to pursue a free trade agreement because he believed that none of his potential successors were likely to do so.
A two-way trade agreement with Washington is difficult and many people are vehemently opposed to one. That makes it hard for leaders to be advocates for free trade and even harder for other politicians who occupy more minor roles. Hence, President Roh, in this case, is the only one who can do the job. Even thought it might be painful for him now, a trade agreement represents his chance to be remembered as a courageous and wise president.
Farmers must realize that producing competitive products is their only option. They should not fear restructuring and they should take responsibility for past failures. The government should focus on enhancing farmers’ competitiveness in accordance with market principles, and should provide assistance. Government measures to support farm prices and write off the debts of farmers ignore market principles and are doomed to failure.
We once again express our support for President Roh’s conviction and determination. Regardless of their parties or factions, all politicians should work to sign a free trade agreement with Washington and help our farming industry to undergo a long overdue revolution.