[IWAR] S KOREA protest IMF

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sun Dec 14 1997 - 10:17:02 PST

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                             South Koreans protest IMF deal
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press
       SEOUL, South Korea (December 13, 1997 9:12 p.m. EST
       http://www.nando.net) -- Pumping clenched fists into an overcast sky,
       2,000 students and workers demonstrated against South Korea's economic
       bailout deal Saturday, saying it will only inflict more suffering on the
       "We oppose IMF trusteeship! Abolish the IMF agreement!" the protesters
       Saturday's rally -- held in downtown Seoul's bustling Myongdong
       commercial district -- was the first major protest since South Korea
       signed a record-breaking $57 billion bailout agreement with the
       International Monetary Fund on Dec. 3.
       Hundreds of black-helmeted riot police with shields stood guard over the
       crowd, while labor songs blared from loudspeakers mounted on a minivan.
       No clashes or arrests were reported.
       The protest highlighted the challenges facing the winner of next
       Thursday's presidential election, being held at a time of acute economic
       crisis. The bailout mandates belt-tightening that is expected to push up
       unemployment, taxes and prices.
       "The government and rich company owners ruined the economy, and now they
       tell us to take all the pain. We never will!" one labor leader shouted.
       "Fight! Fight!" the protesters chanted, sitting on pavement wet from
       melting snow. Some carried signs that read: "Arrest (President) Kim
       Young-sam for Ruining the Economy."
       They promised to stage a bigger protest Sunday.
       Earlier Saturday, Kim and the nation's three key presidential candidates
       reaffirmed support for the IMF bailout.
       "We will do our best to boost international confidence by honoring the
       terms of the agreement," a joint statement from the four men said.
       South Korea's economy has further deteriorated since the deal was
       announced, with currency and share prices continuing to fall and foreign
       lenders reportedly refusing to roll over their loans.
       Fears that South Korea may renege on the promises it made to the IMF
       have eroded investor confidence. Those fears escalated when two leading
       presidential candidates said they would renegotiate the bailout
       conditions if elected, in an apparent attempt to translate popular
       dismay into votes.
       Both of them backed down Friday and pledged full support.
       Most Korean economists agree the IMF mandates are bitter but necessary
       to rescuing the failing economy. But many Koreans who have painful
       memories of foreign intervention consider the bailout humiliating and
       too harsh.
       "It is a totally justifiable reaction on the part of the Korean people
       to suspect that the IMF bailout was used as a golden opportunity for the
       U.S. and Japan to push their own agenda onto a Korea on its knees," said
       a statement Saturday from the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice,
       an influential civic group.
       The demonstrators suggested South Korea should refuse to pay its foreign
       debt to protest the accord.
       Analysts say more than $100 billion in foreign loans will come due
       within a year. Of that, between $16.5 billion and $20 billion in foreign
       debts will come due in the next 2 1/2 weeks. As of Thursday, the country
       only had $10 billion in usable foreign reserves, down sharply from $22.3
       billion at the end of October.
       -- By SANG-HUN CHOE, The Associated Press

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