South Korean Farmers Protest Against Free Trade Agreement

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About two thousand South Korean farmers have staged a rally to protest against South Korea's free trade agreement with the U.S. Protesters also called on their government to send surplus rice to North Korea, to help increase the price of rice.

South Korean farmers staged a protest on Wednesday, urging their government to abolish the U.S.--South Korea free trade agreement.

Seoul and Washington negotiators struck a deal last Friday on the long-delayed pact, which was signed in 2007, but had not been ratified for three years because of U.S. auto and beef industry concerns.

South Korean farmers have opposed the free trade agreement with the U.S., fearing it would harm both agricultural producers and cattle farmers.

South Korea's agricultural ministry said this month the country has imported 4.6 billion dollars worth of agricultural products from the U.S.

[Lim Bong-jae, Protest Leader]:
"We have suffered from the low price of rice since last summer. The government should solve the problem and abolish the FTA they agreed with this time [with the U.S.]."

South Korean farmers have also urged the government to send more rice to North Korea. That's because there's a surplus of a million tons of rice this year, and sending some to the North will help increase prices.

Heavy rains in July and August damaged the North's food production. But even in a good year, it falls a million tons short of the amount needed to feed the North's 23 million people.

South Korea has been reluctant to give rice to the North because it is worried it won't reach the people who need it most.