The National Assembly Can't Ratify a Typo

      February 25, 2011 13:37

      Some figures in the Korean version of the Korea-EU FTA submitted to the National Assembly on Oct. 25 are different to the English version. According to the original draft, up to 50 percent of the materials for toys and wax products can come from abroad if they are to be considered made in Korea and benefit from tariff cuts. But in the Korean version the figures are 40 percent for toys and 20 percent for wax products, making it less advantageous for Korean goods.

      The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says those were two typos in thousands of pages and is pushing for ratification of the bill including typos because it will take too long to correct the mistakes and resubmit the bill. The ministry says it will explain the matter to the EU once the bill is ratified.

      In international negotiations like as FTA talks, officials push and shove over every single word or figure to protect their country's national interest. It is unacceptable to submit a bill that includes errors, and it is even less acceptable to expect lawmakers to ratify the wrong version simply because of a lack of time.

      If a Trade Ministry official was selling his house for W500 million (US$1=W1,133) and saw a contract with a typo listing the deal as valued at W50 million, would the official sign it because he is in a hurry and the buyer makes a verbal promise to correct it later? If ministry officials had translated, typed and proofread the draft with the intention of protecting Korean companies as they would protect their own family, the mistake would not have happened. 

      The government and the ruling Grand National Party are in a rush to ratify the FTA by the July 1 deadline, when the deal tentatively goes into effect. But the Lee Myung-bak administration must surely remember what devastating repercussions a rushed deal can have. In 2008, Korea hurried an agreement to resume U.S. beef import before the bilateral summit in April that year, but that only led to months of nationwide protests that paralyzed the government.

      Rushing the Korea-EU FTA could provide fodder for opponents who seek to derail the pact altogether.

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