Here is the full text of the speech by Park Hyung-dae, which he delivered at a side event in the United Nations during the third round of negotiations for a legally binding treaty on transnational companies and human rights.
Hello, my name is Park Hyung–dae and I am the policy chief of the Korean Peasant’s League that has 30,000 members representing the 2.7 million peasants in South Korea. The TNCs use international and legal tools, mainly the WTO and FTAs to expand to other countries. Today, I would like to share the experience of Korean agriculture. As voracious agricultural TNCs took interest in Korea, our agriculture has all but collapsed.
The main example is rice. Rice is our main staple and a key part of our cultural and historical identity. Korea is fully capable of producing enough rice for our people. Just recently, in 2002, 2009 and 2016, our rice yield has even exceeded our needs. Rice is the most important crop in Korea and we have enough. You would think that rice is not a problem in Korea. But, no. It is the opposite that is true.
This is because the WTO is forcing us to import rice, rice that we do not need. You would think the WTO would be apologetic and just tell us to import a little. But, no. In 1994, the WTO forced us to import 8% of our consumption. The WTO is not stupid.
To decrease resistance from Korean peasants and Korean people who were outraged, they started from forcing 2% on us in 1995. By 2010, they reached their goal of 8%. And the Korean people got discouraged about the issue, the WTO succeeded in going beyond the initial agreement, forcing us to import 10% of our rice consumption from 2014. Since then and forever, unless the WTOs is dismantled, we have to import this amount unless we’re willing to accept tremendous sanctions.
How has this affected Korea?
- Rice prices plummeted. Farmers started to get overwhelmed with humongous debt. Many committed suicide and those hanging on are barely doing so.
- In 1995, we had 8million peasants, Now we have less than 3million
Meanwhile, the US TNCs who were behind the WTO treaty has secured a stable market and is reaping a huge amount of unfair profits based on this trade treaty that takes no account of reason and common sense.
It is not only rice but all agricultural and livestock producs are invading Korea in this way. Korean markets are now overflowing with US-Australian-Canadian beef, US-Chinese wheat, Denmark-Netherland’s dairy products and Chile’s grapes.
Using similar methods, the big 4 agricultural TNCs are controlling Korean agriculture from seeds, pesticides, herbicides, agricultural machinery and tools, processing to distribution. This is not the only method TNCs use to take over another country’s agriculture. In Korea, WTOs and FTAs have lowered quarantine standards, set their own agricultural quality control standards, pesticide-herbicide safety and usage standards totally envading Korea’s sovereignty and the rights of Koreans as a whole JUST to ensure profits for TNCs.
We must change the world system that allows bullies to violate the rights of sovereign countries and their people without the least bit of hesitation just for capital interests.
The legally binding treaty that we are seeking right now is not an extreme measure. It is merely a minimum brake to rein in inhumane TNCs that are running wild. Late is better than never and I have no doubt that we will continue to fight and as long as we fight, the treaty will be achieved.