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Thousands of Farmers Rally Against FTA

Korea Times, 20 June 2003

Thousands of protesting farmers took to the nation’s major highways yesterday to call on the National Assembly to not ratify a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Chile.

Scores of farmers drove 31 trucks and tractors along the Seoul-Pusan Expressway in Chilgok, North Kyongsang Province, at a snail’s pace early in the day, paralyzing traffic on the expressway leading to Seoul.

The vehicles were blocked by police on the road near the Chilgok rest area.

Farmers, who claim the FTA with Chile will damage the country’s agriculture industry without actually benefiting the national economy, also put scores of other vehicles on the expressway near the rest area in Umsong County, North Chungchong Province, to stage the low-speed demonstrations in a showdown with police.

More than 1,600 farmers took to the expressways in Haman, Sanchong, Hapchon, Changwon and several other South Kyongsang cities and counties.

More than 1,300 farmers in South Cholla Province did the same on expressways in the region and over 1,500 South Chungchong farmers also headed for Seoul in 850 trucks, buses and other vehicles to join a national rally in front of the National Assembly in Yoido, central Seoul, to oppose the FTA.

About 1,300 North Kyongsang Province farmers are also geared up to begin a journey to Seoul in 1,040 vehicles.

Police, meanwhile, mobilized thousands of personnel to prevent farmers from driving on expressways with agricultural equipment and livestock that might be used as means to stage demonstrations.

About 40 farmers who belong to the radical Korean Farmers League also occupied the Chungbu Expressway in Chinchon, North Chungchong Province, paralyzing traffic there.