Don’t cremate FTAThe day after Sungnyemun, or Namdaemun, burned to the ground, the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement came also under threat of destruction. As the smoke rises from the ashes of Namdaemun, a radical progressive political party in Seoul and a militant umbrella union in Washington are doing their best to incinerate the agreement.
The trade committee of the National Assembly was scheduled to move a bill to ratify the free-trade agreement to the main session, but eight Democratic Labor Party lawmakers physically blocked the legislative action. The Democratic Labor Party faces a crisis. An internal faction advocating independence and another faction advocating equality are fighting to gain control. To stop the ratification of the free trade agreement, there was no independence or equality, only objection.
Seoul and Washington agreed on the free trade deal at the end of last June. The agreement took one year to put together and it represents Korea’s economic future.
Several months later, the National Assembly still hasn’t ratified the agreement. Under the current economic conditions, the agreement is crucial. Due to the subprime mortgage crisis, the U.S. economy is heading toward recession, while the international prices of raw materials have skyrocketed, worsening prospects for Korea’s export-driven economy.
Korea needs the free trade agreement to survive. To this end, the National Assembly must ratify the free trade agreement to put pressure on the United States. We have a long way to go, but a small number of short-sighted people are obstructing our path.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, deeply connected with the Democratic Labor Party, has dispatched its leadership to the United States to lobby against the deal. The head of the confederation will urge the U.S. Congress not to ratify the agreement, while seeking cooperation with the U.S. labor sector.
Most people in Korea feel greatly saddened by the tragedy of losing Namdaemun as they embark upon a new year, launch a new president and a new administration.
The National Assembly must ratify the free trade agreement before the new lawmakers get elected in April. It is more honorable for the current lawmakers to handle the matter.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions must take a broader view. The free trade agreement will increase jobs and improve workers’ welfare. Further delays will only add to the national misery.