Archive for June, 2008

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“The darkness has never won against the light.”

June 30, 2008

As we reported the other day, the National Action Week against the South Korean government’s publication of guidelines on U.S. beef imports witnessed a lot of pain, suffering and blood on the part of peaceful protesters.

In response, about 300 Catholic priests and 200 nuns took to the street on Monday, and held a public protest Mass in central Seoul:

The priests and nuns called to the government for renegotiating over U.S. beef, firing Uh Chung-soo, the head of the National Police Agency, and releasing all the citizens arrested so far. And they called to the citizens for maintaining the principle of nonviolence.

Quoting John 1:5, they declared that “the darkness has never won against the light”. Tens of thousands of citizens attending the Mass burst into applaud and cheers in agreement.

Upon finishing the Mass and the ensuing protest march, some of the priests began a fasting protest at Seoul Plaza:

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Also, the priests announced their plan to hold a protest Mass everyday at 7:00PM at Seoul Plaza.

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International Herald Tribune publishes a false report on the June 28th protest.

June 29, 2008

Choe Sang-hun, a South Korea correspondent of International Heread Tribune (IHT), writes today that “The demonstrators hurled rocks and swung steel pipes while the police beat them back with plastic shields.” But it was police that hurled rocks and kindred things, as we reported yesterday. And the claim that protesters used steel pipes is a complete lie, a lie that even radical right-wing propagandist daily newspapers in Korea would dare not publish. Choe’s report intentionally misleads the readers into thinking that police violence was a result of responding to prostesters’ violence, which only exists in Choe’s imagination.

New York Times, which owns IHT and regularly publishes Choe’s articles in their entirety, has wisely published Choe’s report on the June 28th protest with that false claim edited out. Choe’s reports on Korea have always been skewed to the right. If, as is reported by Reuters, “The New York Times is developing plans to merge the Web site of the International Herald Tribune with that of The New York Times, in a bid to expand their global reach and deepen their appeal to advertisers“, it’d be wise of NY Times to reconsider publishing articles on Korea by an unreliable reporter like Choe.

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Police violence escalates into madness.

June 28, 2008

June 28, the fourth day of the National Action Week against the South Korean government’s publication of guidelines on U.S. beef imports, might turn out to be a turning point in political struggles of Korean people for health and human rights.

In phase with his decision to put into effect the April 18th beef imports agreement with the U.S., Lee Myung-bak made a decisive break from his previous apologetic tone this week, and the police returned to full-scale violence. However, June 28 marked a new height in police violence.

Here’s a video showing a female student being attacked by riot police last night:

Police threw various items including a fire extinguisher at protesters:

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This video shows police throwing nuts and bolts at protesters, injuring a middle-aged woman:

So many Korean people shed blood last night. But police’s violence didn’t discriminate between Koreans and non-Koreans, or between citizens and journalists. Reportedly a German journalist was injured by police. And an American young man had the upper left part of his lip cut by an inch by a sharp-edged police shield:

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As police violence escalates, citizens are now seriously considering some possible self-defense measures. We might be entering a new phase in civil protest in Korea.

[Update: June 28, 21:20]

Here’s another video showing police acting like rabid beasts.

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All 14 members of a human rights committee resign in protest against police violence.

June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, the second day of the National Action Week, was again filled with police violence, including use of water canons against peacefully protesting citizens:

Among a countless number of physical abuses by police stood out this case:

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He is Ahn Min-seok, a member of the national assembly. According to the United Democratic Party—the leading opposition party Ahn is affiliated with—and news reporters present at the scene, Ahn was surrounded and attacked by police while trying to keep police from arresting citizens around 1 a.m. of June 27.

All 14 members of the human rights committee of the Korean Police Agency resigned in protest against police violence of the 26th. The fact that the committee comprises both conservative and liberal people indicates that concern is widespread over police’s treatment of protesters.

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KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) announces a plan for a total strike.

June 25, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, the first day of the National Action Week, was marked by police’s violence against the protesters.

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More than a hundred protesters including one grade schooler and two young moms carrying baby carts were forcibly arrested. Many more were attacked by the police who seemed quite willing to use sharp-edged shields against peacefully protesting citizens. Also, a rather surreal thing happened: a man in his fifties (shown below) had one of his fingers bitten off by a policeman:

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Lee Myung-bak may have calculated that if the police aggressively respond to protesters on Wednesday, not too many people will take to the streets on this weekend.

That’s a mistake.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the most powerful labor organization in Korea, has issued a notice of a set of guidelines for a total strike against the government’s decision to put into effect the April 18th beef import deal with the U.S.

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National Action Week set for this week.

June 24, 2008

The South Korean government has announced today its decision to put into effect the controversial Korea-U.S. agreement on beef imports from Thursday, June 26.

Candlelight vigils and street rallies have been held daily against the agreement since May 2, but Lee Myung-bak, nicknamed “bulldozer”, has no fear of a collision with the people, despite the fact that his approval rating has plummeted to an all-time low.

The Korean people are responding to the announcement by declaring this week a National Action Week against Lee Myung-bak. It’s expected to draw the biggest candlelight crowd ever to central Seoul.

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Kim Jong-hoon’s shameless lies exposed.

June 24, 2008

As noted earlier, Kim Jong-hoon, the top South Korean trade envoy to Washington, held talks with Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative, over some controversial elements of the April 18th U.S. beef import agreement. Upon return to Korea, Kim held a press conference on the talks and claimed that the U.S. government agreed to verify that the beef from cattle older than 30 months will not be shipped to Korea for consumption. But as Schwab makes it clear in her statement quoted below, that’s only “a transitional measure, to improve Korean consumer confidence in U.S. beef”. More importantly, the Quality System Assessment (QSA) program is not enforced by the U.S. government but is an entirely voluntary measure that can be canceled at will by the U.S. beef exporters. All bold emphases mine:

USTR NEWS
UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
http://www.ustr.gov Washington, D.C. 20508 202-395-3230
For Immediate Release: Contact:
June 21, 2008 Sean Spicer/Gretchen Hamel (202) 395-3230

USTR Confirms Korea’s Announcement on U.S. Beef Washington, DC — United States Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab made the following statement in response to the announcement by the South Korean government today regarding U.S. beef trade. The government announced that, as a result of recent discussions in Washington, Korea will put into effect the April 18th beef import protocol agreed to by the two governments and pave the way for U.S. beef to flow into the Korean market.

“I welcome the South Korean government’s announcement that it will shortly put the April 18 protocol into effect.
“Korean beef importers and U.S. exporters have reached a commercial understanding that only U.S. beef from cattle under 30-months of age will be shipped to Korea, as a transitional measure, to improve Korean consumer confidence in U.S. beef.
“At the request of U.S. exporters, once the protocol goes into effect, the U.S. government will facilitate this transitional private sector arrangement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will set up a voluntary Quality System Assessment (QSA) Program once the protocol goes into effect. This program will verify that beef from participating plants will be from cattle less than 30 months of age.
“We have also agreed on a few additional clarifications to the April 18th protocol that we will implement once the protocol is in effect in an effort to increase the confidence of Korean consumers in U.S. beef.
“We look forward to safe, affordable, high-quality American beef – the same beef enjoyed by hundreds of millions of U.S. consumers and people in countries around the world – soon arriving on Korean tables.
“The resumption of U.S. beef exports to Korea is further evidence of our growing trade relationship with Korea, and the Administration will continue to work hard to obtain Congressional approval of the United States-Korea FTA this year.”

Background:

The June 13-19 discussions in Washington, led by Ambassador Schwab and Trade Minister Kim, focused on ways to facilitate the commercial, private-sector agreement between Korean importers and U.S. exporters to ship U.S. beef from animals less than 30-months for a transitional period until consumer confidence in South Korea improves. To support these voluntary commitments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will establish, once the import protocol is in force, the “Less than 30 Month Age-Verification Quality System Assessment (QSA) Program for Korea” administered by the U.S. government under the Agricultural Marketing Act. This program will verify that all beef shipped to Korea under the program is from cattle less than 30 months of age.
In addition, both sides have agreed that certain products (brains, skulls, eyes and spinal cords), which are not specified risk materials in cattle less than 30 months of age, have not been traded between the two countries in the past. Once the import protocol is in effect, both sides will confirm their expectation that until there is market demand in Korea for such products, such commercial practice will continue.
The two governments will also clarify, once the import protocol is in effect, that Korea can take certain actions under the protocol if it finds serious non-compliance during its audits of U.S. beef processing plants, as well as actions it could take at the border upon detection of food safety hazards. All of these actions will be limited to the product or plant in question.
Finally, Korea confirmed that it will publish its import health requirements for U.S. beef and beef products, putting the April 18 protocol into effect shortly.
The April 18 protocol defines conditions for importation of U.S. beef to South Korea and provides for a full reopening of the market. It is fully consistent with OIE guidelines and will permit all U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages to be exported to Korea, with appropriate Specified Risk Materials (SRMs), as defined by the OIE, removed, while guaranteeing commercial viability for U.S. industry. Both Korean importers and U.S. exporters reaffirmed the safety of all U.S. beef, regardless of age, in their statement and letter on June 20.