Korean Peasant Unions condemn import of agricultural products through Hanaro Mart

Peasants’ Unions in Korea are protesting the sale of imported agricultural products by the local agricultural cooperatives, especially by Hanaro Mart. These protests are intensifying across the South Jeolla Province (Jeollanam-do) all the way from Gwangyang at the eastern end to Yeongam at the western end.

Hanaro Mart is a grocery supermarket chain by Nonghyup (National Agricultural Cooperative Federation), with over 2000 stores across the country that are supposedly meant to sell ‘locally grown agricultural and livestock products.’

The Yeongam County Peasants’ Association held a press conference in front of the Yeongam County Branch of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF) on the 30th of April. About 50 peasants attended the press conference. Speaking at the conference, Jeong Cheol, the chairperson of Yeongam County Peasants’ Association, said, “It is an undeniable reality in South Korea that, due to the government’s misguided agricultural policies and the climate crisis, whenever there is a possibility of even a slight increase in agricultural product prices, imported agricultural products flood in, destabilizing agricultural product prices and threatening the livelihoods of peasants. It is absolutely unacceptable for the NACF, a cooperative created by peasants, to sell imported agricultural products, which is like stabbing the cooperative members in the back.”

The participants demanded that all imported agricultural products within Hanaro Mart be immediately removed and no longer sold, and the Yeongam County Branch of the NACF strictly monitor Hanaro Mart to ensure that no imported agricultural products are sold. If they are sold, immediate reporting to the central headquarters and suspension of all support to the respective cooperative were demanded. They also delivered a letter to the Yeongam County Branch of the NACF.

Kwon Hyeok-ju, the head of the Yeongam County Peasants’ Association, stated, “Although the Yeongam County Peasants’ Association has protested and warned several times against various agricultural cooperatives selling imported agricultural products at Hanomart within our jurisdiction, the cooperatives only briefly withdrew after receiving the protests, then resumed selling imported agricultural products. We can no longer tolerate this behavior, so we held this press conference as a final warning. If imported agricultural products are sold again at Hanaro Mart after today, we will take immediate retaliatory action without further warning.”

On the 25th of April, the Gwangyang City Peasants’ Association (Chairman Yu Yeong-jun), which raised the banner of this year’s struggle against imported agricultural products at Hanaro Mart for the first time, held another press conference in front of Gwangyangwonhyeop. It was a formal press conference following informal gatherings held in front of Jinjang Cooperative on the 19th and Gwangyang Dongbu Cooperative on the 22nd.

The Gwangyang City Peasants’ Association is conducting two parallel struggles against the local agricultural cooperatives: ‘recovery of shipping incentive funds’ and ‘prevention of the sale of imported agricultural products’. ‘Shipping Incentive Funds’ refer to a 0.5% incentive that is paid by wholesale market to auction companies (which is Nonghyup in this case) to encourage shipping. Peasants wants that these incentives are extended to them instead.
The large-scale cooperative struggle that began with the fight for the recovery of shipping incentive funds has expanded to include imported agricultural products. Recently, most of the cooperatives in Gwangyang have withdrawn imported agricultural products from their shelves and are considering payment of shipping incentive funds, but the peasants are demanding a clear resolution.

The press conference was attended by over 50 peasants, including Yoon Il-kwon, the chairperson of the Gwangju Jeonnam Federation of the National Peasants’ Federation, as well as peasants from nearby cities and counties such as Suncheon and Boseong.

Yoon Il-kwon said, “The cooperative is supposed to be an organization for the economic and social advancement of peasants, but the current cooperative has degenerated into a business enterprise, squeezing peasants’ blood and pursuing only its own profit by imposing high fees and loan interest rates on peasants until they die.” The union urged the six cooperatives in Gwangyang City to pay shipping incentive funds and stop selling imported agricultural products.

After the press conference, in a symbolic protest, the participating peasants threw imported bananas at the NACF. The Gwangyang City Peasants’ Association plans to continue pressure on the NACF through picketing and other forms of protest until the issues are resolved.


This article is based on a report filed by Im Sun-man and Kwon Sun-chang for the IKP News.