Thursday, June 12, 2008

One million South Korean people and workers protested against the Unfair US beef import agreement and the government policies!

[kctupower] One million South Korean people and workers protested against the Unfair US beef import agreement and the neoliberal government policies!

On June 10th, around one million people and workers gathered to demand renegotiation of US beef import agreement across the country. In case of Seoul, around 500,000 people participated in the candlelight vigil and march.

In spite that this protest was mainly coordinated by the People’s Countermeasure Council against Full Resumption of Imports of US Beef Endangered with Mad Cow Disease, an umbrella group of civic and labor organizations, the protestors were composed of various spectrum such as middle and high school students, workers and families with small children. And many KCTU members refused to work overtime and joined in the protest. Today's rally and march was held on the 21st anniversary of the June Grand Struggle of 1987, which was the most important momentum for the development of democracy in South Korea.

The peaceful candlelight vigil and marches have been kept almost on a daily base since May 2. The People's Countermeasure Council organised the "72-hour People's Action Relay" from June 6 to 8th. During the "72-hour relay of people's action", demonstrators tried to march to the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae(Blue House) after the candlelight vigil so as to make their voices heard to the President. A number of citizens were injured, arrested or detained.

Today on June 10th, the police blocked the street toward the presidential office by the big containers. For the citizens, the container-wall was considered as a symbolic sign that the government is not ready to respect and implement the people's opinions.

Facing the huge people's anger and demonstration, all the ministers of the current cabinet had to offer the resignation including Prime Minister Han seung-soo on June 10. And all the top advisers for the President Lee Myung-bak including Chief Secretary of Presidential Office, Ryu Woo-ik, already offered to resign on June 7th.

It is natural that the ministers and top advisors of the presidential office who have to take responsibility for this situation should resign. However, it should be pointed out that the people's anger and demands cannot be solved only by the resignation of the cabinet.

The government of South Korea have to recognize that it lost the people's confidence and the people are also questioning other government policies on education, health care and consumer prices. Therefore the only solution is for the government to take immediate actions to implement the people's demands of renegotiation of the US beef import agreement, repeal of privatization scheme of public services including education and health care and the construction plan of the Korea Grand Canal. This is a matter of democracy and the fundamental right to exercise one’s expression and protest.


Lee Changgeun
International Executive Director
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

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