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Farmers protest Seoul's decision to abandon developing country status

South Korean farmers held a rally in Seoul on Friday demanding the government withdraw the decision to abandon its developing country status in the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki announced the plan earlier in the day, which farmers fear will force the country to scrap subsidies and tariffs that protect its agricultural industry in future negotiations.

"If we give up the developing country status, we will have to cut the agricultural subsidies by half, and the United States will pressure the country to further open its agricultural market," a coalition of 33 farmers' lobbies and nongovernmental organizations said in a statement read in front of the government complex in central Seoul.

They accused the government of foregoing "sovereignty in trade and food." If the government goes ahead with the plan, they warned it will face fierce resistance from farmers across the country.

About 30 representatives from farmers' associations attended the rally. They briefly clashed with police as they tried to break into the government building to deliver their demands to a meeting of government ministers.

The announcement is seen as a concession to the United States.

President Donald Trump has vowed to make sure rich economies do not take advantage of the special treatment that comes with the self-declared developing country status.

South Korea has kept its developing country status since WTO's inception in 1995 to protect its agriculture industry.

The minister said the decision will not affect the current agricultural subsidies and tariffs and that the nation will have sufficient time to prepare for future negotiations. (Yonhap)