Is the DUP Suffering from Amnesia?

      February 06, 2012 13:04

      Main opposition Democratic United Party leader Han Myeong-sook said in a meeting with the party's top officials on Friday that she has decided to send U.S. President Barack Obama and American lawmakers a letter demanding the nullification and a complete review of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. This is an embarrassment unprecedented in Korea's diplomatic history.

      The Korea-U.S. FTA is set to go into effect later this month as soon as officials on both sides wrap up a final inspection of the necessary legal revisions in both countries. Han said that she has called on the government to halt the implementation of the bilateral trade pact, but the government has not responded in any way, so she has no choice but to pressure Washington.

      Han was prime minister between June 2006 and March 2007, when the FTA talks were going on. When top trade officials from the two sides signed the FTA agreement in April of 2007, Han even issued a statement calling the pact the "fruit of the diplomatic efforts" of the Roh Moo-hyun administration. But now Han and the DUP leadership, which includes lawmakers who were close to the late former president, are calling the FTA a "humiliating pact" which they claim cedes Korea's economic sovereignty and have threatened to scrap it if they assume power.

      The ISD clause in the FTA, which gives foreign investors the right to seek the help of international arbitrators in trade disputes here and is the target of the DUP's criticism, was set in place during the Roh administration. Yet the DUP now says it did not realize back then how serious the implications of the clause would be. If that is true, then we can only conclude that Korea was in dire straits when those ignoramuses were in power, or else the DUP is lying.

      The DUP recently announced a broad set of welfare plans, including free school lunches, free childcare, free medical services, and government support for university fees and jobs. The party even said it would boost taxes to come up with the money for these programs. But the economy needs to grow to generate more taxes. At present, with export dependency at 90 percent, outbound shipments are the only way to stimulate GDP growth. If Han, who once touted the Korea-U.S. FTA, really wants to scrap it, she needs to come up with another solution to boost the economy.

      The FTA regulations stipulate that the pact can be scrapped 180 days after one side informs the other of its termination. If the DUP gains control of government, it could take such steps immediately. That will be the day when Korea acquires the stigma of reneging on its own pledges and unilaterally scrapping international agreements.

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