February 09, 2012 09:36
The Democratic United Party and the United Progressive Party delivered letters to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on Wednesday threatening to repeal the bilateral free trade agreement unless it is renegotiated. The three letters signed by 96 lawmakers from both parties are addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and House of the Representatives Speaker John Boehner.
In the letters, the parties enumerate a list of 10 controversial provisions they have dubbed "poisonous." The list includes the investor-state dispute clause, which allows investors to seek arbitration from international organizations, and country-of-origin issues for South Korean products made in the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The parties called for renegotiations of the FTA before it takes effect. Except a safeguard clause relating to technical regulations in the car sector, the other nine clauses on the list had also been included in an agreement the two countries signed during the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2007, when what is now the DUP was in power.
"If we become the majority party in the upcoming general elections as expected, we will take every measure possible to repeal the Korea-U.S. FTA," the DUP said. "If we win the presidential election, the agreement will be terminated in accordance with Article 24.5 Clause 2" of the FTA.
The clause says, "The agreement shall terminate 180 days after the date either party notifies the other party in writing that it wishes to terminate the agreement."
In a press conference, DUP chairwoman Han Myeong-sook said, "We declare the treacherous trade deal, which was railroaded through the National Assembly, null and void. We therefore call for refraining from bringing it into force. We hope that these letters will touch the heart of President Obama and U.S. congressmen and senators and the treaty will accordingly not take effect."
The press conference was attended by about 100 former and incumbent DUP lawmakers and election hopefuls. They stood face to face with police for about 10 minutes while trying to march on the U.S. Embassy after the press conference. They later managed to enter the embassy compound, where they delivered the letters.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressed concern that this could damage relations with the U.S. and ruin the trust of the international community.
The ruling Saenuri Party's chief policymaker Lee Ju-young said, "To deliver such letters is a grave diplomatic discourtesy. The DUP's demands are anachronistic."
According to the ministry's International Legal Affairs Bureau, no treaties South Korea has signed with foreign countries since it was established in 1948 have ever been repealed. In the past, visa waiver agreements with Pakistan and Sri Lanka have temporarily been suspended as the number of illegal aliens from these countries rose, but that is as far as it went. They can go into effect again anytime.
"Unilaterally rescinding an agreement we signed with the U.S. would be an unfriendly act," another ministry official said. "It's unimaginable for a country that ranks among the world's top 10 economic powers to do such a thing. The DUP should think seriously about how its demand will be seen by the U.S. and the international community."
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