Three Hundred Korean Peasants Swim Across Hong Kong Bay - Shouting "Down Down WTO!"
For Immediate Release
Contact - Hyun Lee, 347 242 6801 or 718-335-0419
Three Hundred Korean Peasants Swim Across
- Shouting "Down Down WTO!" Hong Kong Bay
As trade ministers from around the globe gathered at the sixth WTO ministerial, which opened on December 13th at the Wanchai Convention Center in Hong Kong, three hundred Korean peasants swam across Hong Kong Bay to reach the convention center, blocked off to protesters by heavily armed police barricades.
Yulsan Liem, a New York City-based artist and activist who joined the action with the peasants, reported from
Hong Kong, "The Korean peasants are 1500 strong in Hong Kong and we are here to say, 'WTO kills farmers!' We are joined by protesters from all over the global south, and the world is saying NO! to the WTO and U.S.-led neoliberalism!"
Since its inception in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been imposing trade liberalization around the globe, and its neoliberal policies on agriculture have been met with resistance from peasants in developing nations. Agriculture will be among the major contentious issues for negotiation at the ministerial.
After ten years of implementation of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the number of peasants in
has drastically shrunk from six million to three million. Many peasants, unable to remain competitive with the introduction of U.S. rice - produced with U.S. government subsidies and sold at low cost in developing nations through the controversial practice of "dumping" - have lost their land and livelihood, and are forced to migrate to cities or abroad in search of work. south Korea
Leading up to the Hong Kong ministerial, peasants in
mounted a nationwide campaign to protest the South Korean national assembly's recent decision to open further its rice market to Korea imports. Rice is a staple in Korean diet and 75% of Korean farmers produce rice. Liberalization of its rice market would cripple the nation's food self-sufficiency by destroying the local agricultural industry. U.S.
Ten U.S.-based Korean activists - part of Korea Exposure and Education Program (www.keep.org) - are in
Hong Kong this week to provide English-Korean translation for the Korean Peasants League, and are reporting daily on their activities on the ground. The KEEP delegation consists of workers, mothers, artists, scholars, and journalists.
KEEP coordinator Hyunsook Kim said, "Korea was a farming country with rich soil, and the ruling elites want to pave over every last inch of soil and dirt with concrete and cement," and added, " Small farmers everywhere are getting crushed by Cargill and ConAgra!"
The Korean Peasants League and KEEP say they will fight the WTO as long as its neoliberal policies continue to ruin the environment and threaten local subsistence economies around the world.