Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, said on Wednesday that he would object to a bill to ratify the free trade agreement with the United States.
His remark, coupled with the Grand National Party floor leader Hwang Woo-yeah’s vow not to run in general elections next year if the ruling party railroads the bill, darkens the prospect for its smooth passage this year.
“Damage is large in terms of national interests because the government changed its position never to re-negotiate the pact and reflected only the U.S. position in mending it,” Soh said in a radio speech. “The Democratic Party supports a free trade policy, but I will not consent to an FTA under which Korea could sustain a loss due to wrong negotiation or an FTA which lacks measures for those likely to suffer from the deal.”
Korea needs to come up with more thorough steps because the FTA with the U.S. may inflict even larger losses than that with the EU on industries and people, except for a few large businesses, he added.
He also said that he would try to make the DP a party seeking national policies friendlier to the people. “The policies will be complemented through dialogue with the people and implemented on the basis of national consensus,” the opposition leader said.
In the past, Sohn was in favor of the free trade agreement with the United States, but has raised his voice against it since he took the helm of the party as chairman in October, last year. In November, last year, when the government was in additional talks with the U.S. over the agreement, he said that he opposed the re-negotiation, arguing against what he called Korea’s one-sided concession.
However, earlier at a workshop of DP lawmaker-elects in May, 2008, he said that the DP lawmakers should reflect on what responsibility to take if the DP blocks the passage of the U.S. FTA bill.
As a main reason for his change of position on the bill, Sohn blamed the renegotiation by the Lee Myung-bak administration, but observers point out that he must have been aware of many other opposition lawmakers who are opposed to the trade pact. They say that his radio speech Wednesday is an expression of his intention to avoid clashes with his supporters ahead of presidential elections next year.
Sohn’s indication of his objection to the trade deal with the U.S. is construed to mean that he is willing to use physical force to stop the ruling majority party from passing the bill.
By Chun Sung-woo (email@example.com