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Anti-FTA protests likely to continue

 Opposition lawmakers, labor unions, farmers hold anti-government rallies


Thousands of anti-FTA protesters gathered in downtown Seoul on Thursday afternoon for a third massive protest after the Korea-U.S. FTA was ratified on Tuesday, urging the government to scrap the deal.

Opposition party lawmakers, labor unions, farmers and citizens gathered in Seoul Plaza despite the cold and called the free trade deal invalid. 

They criticized the Lee Myung-bak administration and the ruling Grand National Party for railroading the free trade pact through the Assembly.

The Korean Federation of Trade Unions called on its 10,000 key members to strike on Thursday and encouraged them to participate in candlelight vigils across the country holding banners saying, “FTA invalid, Lee Myung-bak out.”

The group will hold another candlelight vigil at Seoul Plaza at 6 p.m. on Saturday and large nationwide protests on Dec. 3.

The protests started just after the trade pact was ratified at the parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Citizens protest the ratification of the U.S. free trade agreement at Seoul Plaza on Thursday afternoon. (Yonhap News)
Citizens protest the ratification of the U.S. free trade agreement at Seoul Plaza on Thursday afternoon. (Yonhap News)

About 2,500 angry protesters gathered in front of the Myeongdong Cathedral around 9 p.m. and clashed with riot police when they started to march toward central Seoul.

The clash blocked traffic around the area, causing problems for commuters.

Another group of protesters rallied in Yeouido near the Assembly, calling the ruling party's railroading the trade deal a “coup” and a trampling of democracy. They condemned the party while promising to make its members pay in the general elections next year.

On Wednesday, about 15,000 protesters gathered in Seoul Plaza, including the leftwing Democratic Labor Party lawmakers Lee Jung-hee, Kang Ki-gap and Kim Sun-dong. Kim detonated a teargas canister inside the National Assembly hall to block the ratification process.

“The DLP and opposition parties want to fight (the Korea-U.S. FTA) fairly with citizens. I came here today not to protest but to punish the Lee Myung-bak administration,” Lee said while at the demonstration.

“I didn’t terrorize (the Assembly). It’s President Lee Myung-bak and the GNP who ruined Korean citizens’ dreams and hopes,” said Kim.

At the rally, protesters clashed with the police when they started to march down the street and the police responded by firing water cannons to disperse them.

“I can’t believe the police fired water cannons at citizens in the cold weather,” said a protester.

The conservative Korea Parent Federation also staged a rally criticizing the anti-FTA protest on the opposite side of Seoul Plaza where the protest began. 


By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@herald.com)
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