South Korean farmers interrupted a public hearing in Seoul on revising the nation’s trade deal with the US, standing on desks, throwing eggs at officials and demanding the agreement be scrapped.
The five-year old deal is a target of President Donald Trump, who blames it for increasing the US trade deficit with Korea. Korea agreed last month to US demands to renegotiate it, and that provided an opportunity for farmers and other groups of Koreans who originally opposed it to demand changes as well.
As trade ministry officials and a state think tank analyst read statements on the effects of the deal, members of farmers’ associations entered the convention centre where the hearing was being held, shouting that it was a "lie" that it had benefited both sides and calling the officials “traitors.”
The farmers carried banners and wore headbands emblazoned with the slogan “scrap rather than renegotiate.”
The farmers then threw eggs at the panelists, mostly professors and analysts preparing for a discussion on the possible impacts of amending the deal. The farmers then climbed on tables and attempted to throw a desk before security guards stopped them.
The farmers then said the government hasn’t sufficiently acknowledged their suffering in the five years since the deal took effect, and hasn’t compensated them enough. They demanded that the hearing be stopped and resume only when there had been a proper analysis of their problems and sufficient aid.
Deputy Trade Minister Kang Sung-cheon said repeatedly that the government will firmly argue against additional opening of the nation’s agriculture markets during the renegotiation. The farmers responded by tearing down the official banner at the venue and declaring an end to the hearing.
South Korea’s trade ministry said in a statement later that the discussion planned at the hearing on Friday couldn’t proceed due to representatives of the agriculture and livestock sectors protesting and occupying the stage.
The ministry said it will proceed to the next step, however, creating a plan to renegotiate the deal and reporting to parliament.