South Korea : 1,000+ Peasant Women Demand Yoon Seok-yeol’s Resignation at First Post-COVID Conference

Article on the Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA)’s national annual event held on August 23rd published in Korean Agricultural News KPLnews [Reporter Kang Seon-il, Korean Agricultural News]

On the 23rd of last month, at a road in front of Seoul City Hall, more than 1,000 peasant women gathered for the ‘2023 National Peasant Women’s Conference’ organized by the Korean Women Peasants Association, wearing white attire, urging the resignation of the Yoon Seok-yeol government, which implements policies harmful to agriculture and farmers. Photo by Han Seung-ho

After discussing these issues, they criticized the actions of the Yoon Seok-yeol government, which seemed oblivious to the suffocating reality faced by farmers.

Chairwoman Yang said, “Last month, despite record-breaking heavy rains causing flooding of agricultural land and farmers dying all over the country, I saw news that a country’s president went to another country (Ukraine) to support a war, and his wife enjoyed luxury shopping. I doubted whether he was fit to be the president of our country.” This criticism was directed at President Yoon Seok-yeol, who visited Ukraine in mid-July amid domestic flooding to unilaterally support Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine war, thereby worsening South Korea’s relationship with Russia and destabilizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Additionally, this year’s constant joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, as well as the strengthening of the military alliance between the United States, South Korea, and Japan, have heightened the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula, according to the assessment of the women farmers. Chairwoman Yang urged, “Just as peasant women led the way in bringing down the Park Geun-hye government in the past, let us once again put everything on the line and fight until the day the Yoon Seok-yeol government resigns. Let us fight together and achieve victory.”

Yang Ok-hee, former chairperson of the KWPA, wearing white attire, stands with a determined expression in front of a banner that reads ‘Food Sovereignty.’ Photo by Han Seung-ho.

Chairman Ha Won-oh of the Korean Peasants’ League mentioned the sentiments of farmers who have struggled to plow under the crops they painstakingly grew due to price collapses caused by heavy rainfall and the government’s agricultural import policies. Chairman Ha stated, “Let us fight to ensure that we, with our own hands, do not have to plow under the crops we planted. Plowing and replanting are what our farmers do best. Let us, with the hands of our farmers, overthrow the Yoon Seok-yeol government and open a new world. Let both male and female farmers shoulder the burden and lead the struggle together.”

Frustrated by the Yoon Seok-yeol government that turns a deaf ear to any opposition in any region, Chairwoman Yang exclaimed, “Now we have to risk our lives and go into the sea. I’m angry at the Yoon Seok-yeol government, which does not take responsibility for the safety and lives of the people and instead sympathizes with Japan’s plan to release radioactive contaminated water. President Yoon Seok-yeol must immediately take full responsibility and step down.”

Kim Mi-sun, who cultivates greenhouse pumpkins and peppers in Goseong County, Gyeongsangnam-do, has been working as a personal caregiver for the past ten years. Due to the frequent price collapses of agricultural products caused by the agricultural policies of the government, she cannot earn money solely from farming, nor can she cover the losses incurred in the farming process. Her caregiving job runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., but she works in the fields from 5 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. before going to work. After finishing her caregiving job, she has to work in the fields again from 3 p.m. onwards. Kim said, “Even so, there’s not enough time to work, so I have to continue farming late into the night with a lantern on my head.”

Yet, Kim does not receive proper rights as a female farmer. She said, “I cannot register as a co-farmer in agricultural management organizations, so I do not receive the benefits given to female farmers.” Due to the fact that the income from farming is less than 10 million won per year, many female farmers who engage in additional occupations such as personal caregiving and care work are often excluded from policies targeting female farmers, as they are registered in ‘other occupations’ with four major insurances. Kim urged, “The government must step in through measures like guaranteeing production costs and strengthening direct payments policy so that farmers can make a living solely from farming.”

The KWPA resolved to oust the Yoon Seok-yeol government in order to change the suffocating reality described above and to lead the fight for food sovereignty and climate justice. With this resolution, they concluded the conference.