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Protest targets financial ‘greed’

Hundreds of civic activists are expected to express their anger with capitalists, financiers and economic policy makers on Saturday around Seoul.

Inspired by “Occupy Wall Street,” a month-long protest against the “greed of capitalists” in the U.S., protestors here will urge financial institutions and authorities to shun derivatives and focus on arranging financial transactions.

Korea Finance Consumer Federation, SpecWatch Korea and several other groups are scheduled to rally in front of the Korea Stock Exchange building at 2 p.m. in Yeouido, Korea’s financial hub.

At the same time, a similar demonstration against income inequality will be held in front of Seoul Station by Korean People’s Solidarity Against Poverty.

From 6 p.m., at Seoul Plaza downtown, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, the Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements will hold an overnight protest under the theme “the power of 99 percent,” reproaching what they call the “avarice of the top 1 percent.”

The protests will be focused on criticizing the government’s tolerance of financial recklessness and bailouts and call for greater financial regulation. They will demand restrictions on financial institution’s development of risky derivatives, heavy penalties for financial conmen and compensation for the victims of such gambits.

“The most important thing in finance is justice,” said Lee Dae-sun, head of SpecWatch Korea on a radio show.

“That’s what the uprising in Wall Street shows. People are frustrated with the endless greed. It’s the same in Korea. Individual investors have been duped by financial speculators. We also need to punish financial bureaucrats who have joined hands with the villains,” he added.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik told high-ranking officials on Friday that the “Occupy Wall Street” protest has taught Koreans a lesson.

“Social responsibility and fairness more than quantitative growth has become important in the capitalist world and equity in taxation and financial system is being highlighted,” he said. Kim asked officials to collaborate with the business sector in creating a “fair society,” the main slogan of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

However, some showed concerns about the protests.

Prof. Yoon Chang-hyun of University of Seoul said Korea’s social and financial environment is different from that of the U.S. and that the protest is inappropriate.

“The U.S. staggered over the subprime mortgage crises in 2008, when Lehman Brothers investment bank fell down and all other related industry stumbled to make many people go bankrupt. I think Korea’s countermeasure against the meltdown was good enough to protect the local economy,” he said at a seminar hosted by a conservative civic group opposed to the protest.

“Just because Wall Street is doing it, we don’t need to follow them,” he added.
By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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