By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
Several years ago as ROK President entered the early months of his administration the opposition using social media (Text) orchestrated huge protests. Lots of this centered on American beef and Mad Cow disease.
Looks like the opposition party has resorted to similar tactics ( Twitter) to force the GNP in final KORUS FTA talks…
Korea Times notes:
|Unfounded and absurd rumors about the ill effects of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) are spreading rapidly through social networking services (SNS).One rumor argues that the FTA will wipe out Korean rice farmers and Korea will fall victim to big grain producers, although the rice market has already been opened in accordance with the multilateral agreement made under the supervision of the World Trade Organization.
Another claims that the FTA will push mad cow disease to immediate epidemic proportions; while firearm controls will be lifted, turning Korean streets into scenes of gun battles.
There appear to be a couple of different twists to the “mad cow protests” over Seoul’s decision to resume American beef imports that peaked with candlelit protests two and a half years ago. One of them is the medium. It was then Internet blogs but now SNSs such as Twitters are taking over.
But there are common threads pushing the two rumor machines ― a high level of discontent among young people, hit by dark prospects of unemployment, and deep distrust of the incumbent government.
The rumor mills are expected to go on at full tilt during the deadlock over the ratification of the KORUS FTA in the National Assembly.
At the center of the rumor is the investor-state dispute (ISD) clause as part of the FTA, which would allow foreign investors to bring suits against the government of the co-signatory before an international panel of arbitrators.
Protestors demanded that the ISD be removed from the accord, arguing the provision would limit Seoul’s policies on American investors.
The increasing argument on the ISD is churning out wild rumors.
According to the messages on the KORUS FTA circulating on the Internet and SNS, Koreans will suffer from expensive medical bills, caused by privatization of medical services. Protests say, for example, patients will have to pay 9 million won for an appendectomy, up from currently 300,000 won, after the FTA takes effect.
In addition, they say that the FTA deal will raise public utility charges, as Bolivia faced after the FTA with the United States.
However, both rumors turned out to be false, as the medical sector is not included in the FTA, while Bolivia did not reach an agreement with the United States, according to the government.
The rumor-spreading campaign has reached political parties.
The Democratic Labor Party came up with 12 poisonous articles on the FTA, while an opposition lawmaker cited the message that 15 Mexican delegates of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were shot to death after the nation’s economic downfall following the FTA.
The escalating rumors come as the Lee administration has failed to regain popularity.
In the Seoul mayoral election last month, opposition-backed civic activist Park Won-soon won with 53.3 percent of the vote compared to his Grand National Party rival Na Kyung-won’s 46.3 percent.
President Lee Myung-bak is rapidly becoming a lame duck ahead of his final year in office as a series of corruption scandals involving presidential aides has erupted.