Thousands of South Korean farmers rallied in Seoul on Thursday, protesting Chinese demands for more access to the local agricultural market as part of a planned free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea.
About 5,000 farmers who grow chili peppers, onions, and garlic gathered in Seoul's financial district of Yeouido, protesting China's reported move to ask for greater access for its agricultural products at the next round of negotiations for a bilateral FTA.
The 12th round of FTA talks between the two countries will be held in Daegu, 300 kilometers south of Seoul, next week, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
"It is reported that China will demand the removal of tariffs on chili peppers, garlic, and onions while reducing the number of agricultural products in the proposed market opening at the 12th round of the FTA talks," the farmers said.
The farmers, who traveled by bus and plane to take part in Thursday's rally, demanded that vegetables used for seasoning be excluded from the negotiations and that a special law be enacted to prevent illegal distribution of imported vegetables.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at their summit in Seoul last week to make efforts for an early conclusion of their FTA talks, setting a goal of this year.
The South Korea-China FTA negotiations began in May 2012.
The countries agreed late last year to liberalize their markets for about 90 percent of all products traded between them but have since hit a stumbling block, partly over which products will be excluded from the proposed market opening. (Yonhap)