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N. Korea condemns Seoul's railroading of KORUS FTA

SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Wednesday condemned South Korea's parliament for ramming through a free trade agreement with the United States, saying that the move invited strong backlash from the public and opposition parties.

South Korea's ruling-party controlled parliament on Tuesday railroaded a long-pending free trade agreement with the U.S. during a chaotic session as an opposition lawmaker set off a tear gas canister in a bid to block the passage.

The accord, which was signed in 2007 and was modified late last year, was passed in a 151-7 vote with 12 abstentions.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a dispatch that the South's ruling party lawmakers railroaded the "humiliating" free trade deal despite strong protests from opposition parties.

Supporters of the FTA with the U.S. argue that it will expand exports and increase jobs, but opponents claim that the accord will hurt the livelihoods of farmers and small retailers.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to protest against the ratification of the accord, around 10,000 demonstrators held a candlelight vigil in the plaza in front of the Seoul City Hall in central Seoul.

Braving chilly winds, protesters gathered at the plaza, chanting "Nullify the FTA and Step Down President Lee," according to witnesses. Lawmakers from opposition parties joined the rally.

A group of demonstrators made an attempt to hold a street march around 9 p.m., but police and riot police prevented the march by placing police buses in a circle along the plaza, witnesses said.

They said police forcefully tried to disperse protesters by shooting water cannons, inviting strong resistance from some of the demonstrators.


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