A month after the U.S. endorsed the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) all attention was directed to South Korea, which faced strong opposition from the Democratic Party to complete the agreement. The opposition went as far as using tear gas on supporters in their desperation of what might happen if this bill were to pass. This move by the opposition brought hope to anti-FTA groups. We learned from Fr. Pat Cunningham, justice and peace coordinator in Korea, that the Catholic farmers’ movement organized press conferences and prayer vigils to highlight the negative effects the passage of this agreement would have on the farming community. According the progressive Hankyoreh newspaper, “a subject of particular controversy was the government’s failure to provide the National Assembly with even the basic materials needed to examine the agreement.”
Despite all this controversy, South Korean President Lee signed the bill on Nov. 29th, 2011. The promising statistics for job creation should not overshadow the fact that this agreement will result in job loss in some sectors. However, the true scope of the positive and negative implications of this agreement can only be fully realized when the agreement is put in effect. We hope the U.S. and South Korea will implement productive strategies for putting the agreement into effect that will encourage fair trade, justice and better environmental protections.