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Churches criticize free trade ratification

Statement accuses government of riding roughshod over objections of people

Churches criticize free trade ratification
Police used water cannons to disperse some 3,000 people protesting passage of the FTA with the US (photo: 'Catholic News, Here and Now')

November 23, 2011

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The National Council of Churches in Korea issued a statement today strongly criticizing the passing by the National Assembly of a highly controversial free trade agreement with the United States. It accused the ruling Grand National Party of blatantly ignoring widespread objections from opposition parties and civic groups by pushing through yesterday’s vote behind closed doors. Many believe the free trade agreement (FTA) will benefit major corporations at the expense of farmers and small business owners. Catholic churchmen also attacked the move. Augustine Maeng Joo-hyung, education director of Seoul archdiocese’s Environmental Pastoral Committee, said the move was “hasty because measures to safeguard the weak had not been yet formulated.” He called on all Koreans to “punish the Grand National Party in general and presidential elections” next year. Father Stephen Yang Ki-suk, secretary general of the Korean Catholic Solidarity for the Creation of Integrity, said any sacrifices made as a result of the FTA would be made by the weak. He said the local Church should have done more to oppose the deal and come down “on the side of the weak” in accordance with Christ’s teachings. Following the vote the main opposition Democratic Party yesterday pledged to fight to scupper the agreement, while around 3,000 people later held a demonstration in Myeongdong, in central Seoul. South Korea and the US signed the free trade deal in June 2007.  The US Congress ratified it in October. Yesterday’s vote in South Korea means the agreement will take effect on January 1 next year. Related reports Religious groups oppose ‘hasty’ treaty

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