Using kids to sow fears about U.S. trade pact

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Using kids to sow fears about U.S. trade pact

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Opponents of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement are pulling out the stops to raise public alarm about how it will affect Korea - reminiscent of the anti-U.S. beef protests of 2008 - and they’re even employing schoolchildren to whip up fear.

At a rally Sunday in Jongno District, central Seoul, a fourth grade schoolgirl stepped in front of 300 protestors and delivered a carefully rehearsed speech.

“President Lee! Do whatever you want with your power until your tenure as President is over,” the student yelled. “But you will be punished by heaven soon!”

Protestors from a range of social groups held rallies over the weekend across Seoul protesting various ramifications of the trade agreement.

The rally in Jongno District was in protest of provisions in the agreement that would allow foreigners to open for-profit hospitals in Korea. Anti-FTA propaganda insists that for-profit hospitals will lead to an erosion or the collapse of Korea’s national health program.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the rally was organized by the Korea Health and Medical Workers’ Union on Sunday, and dozens of elementary and kindergarten students attended, presumably children of the protestors. For hours, they held signs reading, “Oppose the privatization of hospitals.”

When the fourth grader finished her speech, the crowd cheered.

A male protestor in his 40s followed with a speech regarding rumors about how the FTA will hurt Koreans, which local media outlets have reported are groundless.

“If hospitals in Korea become privatized, we won’t be able to get appendectomies because they will cost more than 10 million won ($8,930),” the protestor said. “Media outlets say this is a groundless rumor, but we all know it’s true. We should continue our protest against the government in order to prevent this possible nightmare.”

At another rally organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions in Seoul Plaza on Sunday, about 20,000 union members gathered and declared their opposition to the ratification of the FTA.

“We will aggressively fight to block the free trade agreement ratification and the ruling party coming back to power,” the group said in a resolution.


By Lee Ji-sang [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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