Friday, March 16, 2012

Method Found Around FTA Agreements

The results of signing of two major Free Trade Agreements last year shocked many Koreans who had been assured it would open up foreign markets to Korean products and had not understood that the reverse would also be true.

With opposition politicians promising to cancel the FTAs as soon as they came to power, and some even promising to go so far as to stop the free entry of goods from Lesser Korea into Seoul, it seemed only a matter of waiting for the next elections before Korea could renege on its recently signed international agreements.

But now there is hope that Korea may not have to wait to cancel these dubious foreign deals, as the Seoul Metropolitan Government says it has found a way around the free trade deals, with the unveiling of a plan to ban the sale of foreign-made products in the Insa-dong district of the city.

Insa-dong was designated as a historical 'cultural district' for tourists in 2002, but in recent years officials have become concerned about the overflow of low-quality goods – mostly from China of course – which are flooding its streets, washing away helpless Korean crafts which would otherwise be bought by foreign visitors. Speaking about the deluge of foreign goods, a 48 year-old ward office official named Kim said "We worry foreign visitors may mistake the low-quality ones as Korean products."

If Insa-dong plan is successful, officials are hoping to expand the ban on the sale of foreign goods to the rest of Seoul, which is also a tourist destination, and then the rest of Korea, in which tourists have been occasionally spotted and hunted for sport.

Legal experts are concerned that the proposal may still be illegal until Korea's FTA deals can be canceled, but under a compromise proposal Seoul has suggested it could instead allow the sale of foreign products on alternate days. "It doesn't seem unreasonable that Korea should only allow foreign guest products to be sold half of the time, with the other half of the time being reserved exclusively for Korean products." said 57 year-old Kim, a Ministry spokesman. Under the scheme, foreign products would be removed from shelves one day before returning the next, except on holidays and in the two weeks before Christmas, since there are concerns these special Korean days are being diluted by foreign influences.

The Ministry of Culture said that Korea was not hostile to foreign products, but they had to know their place.

Related Links
Seoul City looks to ban foreign goods in Insa-dong
Made-in-China goods face ban at Insa-dong

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