Category Archives: Country: South Korea

Various activities, important decisions mark AFA’s 5th general assembly

The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) held various activities and decided on important matters on its recently concluded 5th general assembly, which was also a celebration of its 10th anniversary.

Vietnam Farmers Union (VNFU) hosted the event in Hanoi, Vietnam last March 9, 2012 back-to-back with regional farmers’ consultations on March 7-8 and a CSO consultation on the 31st FAO APRC that AFA attended on March 10-11.

The series of events officially opened on March 7 with a cultural presentation from a Vietnamese folk group, who also performed traditional songs and dances with participants from different Asian countries, and with welcome speeches from VNFU Vice-Chairperson Dr. Nguyen Duy Luong and incumbent AFA Chairperson Mr. Tsai, Shun-Te.

Around 45 representatives from 12 farmer organizations and partner NGOs from 10 Asian countries, such as API (Aliansi Petani Indonesia), FNN (Farmer and Nature Net) in Cambodia, VNFU (Vietnam Farmers Union), SorKorPor (Farmer’s Federations Association for Development Thailand), PAKISAMA (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka) in the Philippines, AINOUKAI in Japan, KAFF (Korea Advanced Farmers’ Federation) and WAFF (Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation) in South Korea, TWADA (Taiwan Wax Apple Development Association), TDFA (Taiwan Dairy Farmers Association), KKM (Kendrio Krishok Moitre) and Action Aid in Bangladesh, NLRF (National Land Rights Forum) and CSRC (Community Self-Relience Centre) in Nepal attended the event, and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) in Mongolia.

Representatives from partner agencies, such as Nellie van der Pasch of Agriterra, Ignace Coussement of Agricord, Thomas Price of GFAR (Global Forum on Agricultural Research), Marlene Ramirez of AsiaDHRRA, Jose Osaba of WRF (World Rural Forum), Michael Commons of Green Net, and Dinah Fuentisima of WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) also graced the occasion.

Review of accomplishments and decisions

Opening with a video showing photos of the past four general assemblies of AFA, the 5th general assembly reviewed AFA’s accomplishments in the last two years (2010-2011) vis-a-vis the strategic plans it set for 2011-2015, while member FOs gave updates on their respective organizational activities.

The assembly also heard, discussed and adopted the Chairperson’s report regarding the administration and activities of AFA and confirmed decisions made by the Executive Committee in between general assemblies.

Exhibit, field visit, and courtesy call

As part of AFA’s knowledge sharing activities, each AFA member organization also put up an exhibit of its country’s agricultural products and traditional processed foods just outside the meeting room, where participants exchanged information on the items on display.

On March 8, participants also went on a field visit to an organic farming project, which is run mainly by women farmers.

It was followed by a short meeting with the VNFU chairperson and other leaders at the VNFU headquarters in a new building in Hanoi, where the two sides shared their aspirations and activities for farmers.

Two-year thrusts, new members, and new officers

The 5th General Assembly set the thrusts of AFA for the next two years, focusing mainly on governance and organizational development, capacity building, knowledge management, and policy advocacy.

The assembly welcomed AFA’s first two member FOs from South Asia — KKM (Kendrio Krishok Moitre) in Bangladesh and NLRF (National Land Rights Forum) in Nepal — whose applications for regular membership were previously approved by the AFA Execom.

It also determined the new set of Executive Committee members for 2012-2014, which in turn elected the new set of officers.

Through a collegial process that follows the tradition of leadership rotation, the Execom elected FNN President Uon Sophal as the new AFA Chairperson, the representative from Ainoukai as Vice-Chaiperson and the representative from API as Treasurer, while re-appointing Esther Penunia as Secretary General.

10th year anniversary, international women’s day, and tribute to farmer leaders

The general assembly was also an occasion for celebration and commemoration.

AFA celebrated its 10th year of existence through an exhibit of agricultural products, solidarity night, ritual of mixing and distributing traditional rice varieties from each Asian country, reading of solidarity statements from partners, awarding of plaques of appreciation, launching of a draft anniversary video and banners containing 10 themes, and the announcement of a plan to come out with a coffee table book highlighting AFA’s important achievements and future plans.

AFA also celebrated International Women’s Day during the field visit, courtesy call to VNFU headquarters, and solidarity night on March 8.

The Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF), AFA’s first and so far only FO member composed solely of women, gave away gifts to women farmers during the field visit to the organic farming project.

VNFU’s Chairperson and other leaders also presented gifts to all AFA women during the courtesy call at the VNFU headquarters.

AFA’s women were again honored during the solidarity night, where they were given roses and asked to share their sentiments about the occasion.

Finally, the general assembly also set aside a special time to commemorate the heroism and martyrdom of farmer leaders in AFA who have died in the struggle for farmers’ rights.

The life and death of farmer leaders Lee Kyung Hae of South Korea; Vicente Paglinawan, Renato Penas, and Florita Caya of the Philippines; and women farmers Lamlaya Chamchamagar and Janak Kumari Chaudhary who died during the land rights campaign in Nepal were presented at the opening of the general assembly, followed by a moment of silence and a dedication of the event to their memory.

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News Digest: South Korea’s Agricultural Exports Reach $5.8 Billion In 2010, As Confidence In Product Quality Increases

Better quality control and more demand from abroad pushed South Korea’s agricultural exports to a record $5.8 billion in 2010. The Ministry of Food, Forestry, and Fisheries cited the export of ginseng, dried laver, beverages and processed food as the main drivers of the 22.3 percent growth in exports over 2009’s US$4.81 billion. Tuna, sugar, and tobacco were among the 10 export products that went beyond the US$100 million mark, again topping 2009’s 8 products. With Japan as its biggest market for farm exports at US$1.8 billion, followed by China at US$786.7 million and ASEAN at US$719.8 million, South Korea’s exports of other products such as strawberries, flowers, mushrooms, and oysters also increased at double-digits, while traditional rice wine makgeolli, kimchi, and citron tea products also grew quickly. It aims to grow exports again by 29 percent in 2011 to reach US$7.6 billion, as confidence in South Korean product quality continues to improve.

Source: Financial Chronicle, January 4, 2011

Asian farmers join Korean comrades in Seoul rally

In solidarity with their comrades in Korea, farmers from Indonesia and the Philippines joined the rally of the Korean Advanced Farmers’ Federation (KAFF) and the Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF) in Yeouido Park, Seoul, South Korea last September 29, 2010.

Vicente Fabe (PAKISAMA) and Luisita Esmao (LAKAMBINI-PAKISAMA) from the Philippines and Ika Krishnayanti (API) from Indonesia joined around 10,000 farmers and supporters from all over South Korea in the public demonstration.

PAKISAMA, API, KAFF, and WAFF are all members of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA).

The participants brought different flags, thousand of balloons, straw dolls, posters, banners, and other accessories to help deliver their message to the Korean government.

Farmers belonging to KAFF and WAFF came from each county of Korea, such as Gyeonggi-do, Gangwon-do, Jollebukdo, Jollanam-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Gyeongsangnam-do, Cungceongbuk-do, and Cungceongnam-do.

As the music of KAFF’s marching tune spread in the air, the thousand of colorful balloons were released to the sky.

The event then continued with the speeches of each farmer-leader present. Government representatives also participated in the event and gave their speeches.

The farmers had 3 demands.

First, “the participants demanded the government to keep the price of rice stable,” said Kim Gi Cheol, a member of KAFF.

He explained that the price of rice keeps getting lower and lower each year. The price that they demand is not less than 170,000 Won/package (1 package = 80 kg). But usually, the price is 20,000 Won/package.

“170,000 Won is the minimal price we demand!” added Kim Gi Cheol.

While Korean rice farmers have to pay a lot of money to store the rice in the warehouse when produce surplus during the harvest season, the government does not allow them to export the surplus rice to North Korea, even if it is cheaper.

Second, the farmers were also rallying against the Korea-China FTA that is being negotiated this year. Negotiations on the Korea-US FTA is still in a deadlock.

Third, the farmers were also demanding for more bank credit for agriculture through the agricultural cooperative federation.

(Report and photos by Ika Krishnayanti, API)

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In the News (South Korea): Farmers’ Market Gains Popularity Amid Surging Agricultural Prices

Prices of agricultural and fish products are skyrocketing due to the unprecedented harsh weather that has rattled the country the last few months.

And with a strong demand for raw produce ahead of Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving… the average price of fresh food hit a six-year high in August.

According to Statistics Korea, seafood prices increased 10.5 percent year-on-year, fresh fruit by 17.2 and vegetables by 24.7 percent.

Overall, the price of fresh food surged by 20 percent on average compared to the same period last year.

Read the full story at Arirang

In the News: S.Korea farmers demand rice shipment to N.Korea

SEOUL — Thousands of South Korean farmers rallied Friday, demanding the government stop a fall in rice prices by shipping surplus stocks in state silos to North Korea.

The farmers urged President Lee Myung-Bak to resume an annual shipment of 400,000 tonnes of rice to the North, which suffers severe food shortages. The shipment was suspended in 2008 as relations soured.

About 3,000 farmers took part in morning rallies in a dozen cities and counties, said the Korea Peasants’ League, which represents farmers, adding more were under way or planned in the afternoon.

“Resuming rice aid to North Korea is a short cut to stabilising rice prices and also improving inter-Korean ties,” league spokesman Kang Suk-Chan told AFP.

Read the full story here

In the News (South Korea): [Viewpoint] Giving the North rice may be wise

Domestic farming groups, sitting on stockpiles of surplus rice, turned hopeful on the news that North Korea was requesting rice aid from South Korea. By the end of October, South Korea’s rice reserves would have reached 1.49 million tons, double the amount recommended by the Food and Agricultural Organization.

Rice prices plunged to 132,500 won ($114) per 80 kilograms (176 pounds) in August from 151,400 won a year ago. In May, frustrated farmers rallied in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, demanding government measures to halt the decline in rice prices. The central and local governments also have to worry about running out of silos to store the swelling supplies of rice. Storing the rice surplus costs state and local governments nearly 400 billion won a year.

The ruling party has good reasons to suggest the resumption of rice aid to North Korea even though cross-border ties have been severed following the North’s attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March.

Read the full article at Joong Ang Daily

In the News (South Korea): [Letters] Free trade is not always beneficial

Free trade is not always beneficial

Korea’s middle class is in danger. Each round of new statistics reports more Koreans falling into the lower classes. With unemployment on a persistent rise, households are struggling to get by. At the same time, the country’s conglomerates are reporting record profits. Incomes at the top are growing while opportunities for job seekers are shrinking. The gap between rich and poor is growing. If some factions of the Korean government and business community have their way, this growing in inequality may accelerate to an unprecedented level.

A high ranking Korean diplomat told the Chinese press that the two countries will likely begin negotiations on a free trade agreement in 2011. Korea wants a free trade agreement to compete for the Chinese market in semi-conductors and electronics with Taiwan, after the Taiwanese signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with the mainland in June.

The bill will face opposition from small and medium-sized manufacturing firms, as well as farmers and fishermen. A free trade agreement that would expose Korean firms to low Chinese labor costs. Cheap imports would be disastrous for domestic industry. If workers in these sectors lose their ability to compete, they will struggle to earn a living in an economy that demands education and specialized skills. Even well educated candidates are struggling in the current job market.

Read the full story at JoongAng Daily

In the News (South Korea): A growing obsession with ‘drunken rice’

A dozen Korean ladies outfitted in pink aprons roll up their sleeves and sterilize their hands with cloths soaked in soju liquor. Then they spend 10 minutes hand-blending steamed sticky rice, yeast dissolved in water and azalea petals, before pouring the mixture into plastic containers. “Don’t forget to put it in the cool shade and stir it every morning and night with a spoon for a week. Think of it as like growing a plant. Those of you who are successful will have your own makgeolli,” said the instructor at the podium.

The group of women – the wives of Korean diplomats – were taking a three-hour lecture on traditional Korean rice wine at the Institute of Traditional Korean Food in downtown Seoul last Tuesday afternoon. What they were making was azalea sticky rice makgeolli.

Read the full story at JoongAng Daily

In the News: Korea Declared Safe for Mad Cow Disease

Korea was internationally recognized as a “controlled risk” country for bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease by the world organization for animal health (OIE). Korea is now in the same level as 33 other countries in the world such as Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced on Thursday Korea and Panama were given “controlled risk” status in the general session of the OIE in Paris on Tuesday.

The Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases at the OIE had made the decision in February based on documents submitted by the Korean government. Some 175 OIE member countries unanimously approved it in the general session. Before, Korea was in the group of “undetermined” countries because the disease control system was not up to the international standards.

Read the full story at The Chosun Ilbo

In the News: S.Korea launches world kimchi research centre

SEOUL — South Korea Wednesday opened a kimchi research centre to raise global demand for its iconic dish and for the country’s cuisine in general.

The agriculture ministry said the world kimchi laboratory, sited at the Korea Food Research Institute in Bundang south of Seoul, would undertake detailed research into lactic acids created by fermentation and operate a pilot plant to make prototype foods.

Kimchi is a fermented dish made by mixing pickled cabbage, radish and cucumbers with various spices and condiments.

Read the full story

In the News: Korea – Drop in beef imports

Korea’s beef imports decreased last year for the first time in five years amid prevailing worries over mad cow disease.

The nation imported 197,857 tons of frozen and chilled meat on a customs-cleared basis in 2009, down 11.7 percent from 224,147 tons a year before, according to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Korea Meat Trade Association.

Imports plunged in 2004 after Seoul banned all U.S. beef imports in the wake of the first suspected case of bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE) reported in America in late 2003.

Australia stayed Korea’s largest beef importer with 116,714 tons, ahead of the United States and New Zealand. Imports of U.S. beef in 2009 fell 6.2 percent to 49,973 tons.

In contrast, homegrown cattle, or “hanwoo,” accounted for more than 50 percent of the market, the highest share in nine years.

Read the full story at Meat Trade News Daily

In the News: Korea Aims to Be Top 10 Farm Produce Exporter

South Korea aims to become one of the world’s 10 biggest exporters of farm produce by 2020.

In a decade-long master plan released Wednesday, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries aims to record $30 billion in exports of domestic products within a decade, more than six-fold from $4.8 billion in 2008, when Korea was placed 41st.

Globalization of the food industry, including the promotion of Korean cuisine, or “hansik,” is one of the five core missions to establish sustainable growth for farming and fishing related businesses.

If the plan is carried out smoothly, the food industry will reach 260 trillion won ($225.1 billion) in sales in 2020, the ministry said. For that purpose, investment will be expanded for research and development to raise food production and processing technology to the level of most advanced countries, according to the plan.

Read the full story at The Korea Times

In the News (Korea): 2nd Foot-and-Mouth Outbreak Confirmed

Government authorities confirmed Thursday the second outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) on a cattle farm close to where the first outbreak in eight years erupted a week ago. The farm in Pocheon, 45 kilometers north of Seoul, is only about 3.5 kilometers away from where the first outbreak was reported, stirring up concerns that the virus may spread.

FMD is rarely transmitted to humans, but it can be fatal for cloven-hoofed animals, including cows, pigs, goats and sheep.

Local quarantine officials confirmed the latest case after testing 15 Korean native “hanwoo” cows that were culled and buried early Wednesday. They showed signs of FMD symptoms, but only two of them tested positive, according to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Read the full story at The Korea Times

In the News: EU trade deal would sell cars, hurt farmers

The Korea-EU free trade agreement, if it crystallizes as officials hope it will, should open a vast consumer market to Korean exporters – and bring cheaper imports to local store shelves.

The European Union market, consisting of 27 member countries with a combined population of 490 million and an annual GDP of $16.6 trillion, is Korea’s second-largest trade partner. Last year, Korea enjoyed a trade surplus with the EU of $18.4 billion.

Removal of the EU’s average tariff of about 4.2 percent on Korean goods is likely to provide great business opportunities and better margins for Korean exporters, many analysts say. The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy recently estimated Korea’s gross domestic product would expand by up to 3.08 percent a year thanks to an EU FTA.

Read more at Joong Ang Daily

In the News: Market opening pressures farmers to accelerate modernization

He has become known as the man without a suit and tie, following the wishes of his boss, President Lee Myung-bak. The president had thought the casual look to be more fitting for the nation’s minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries to reflect the government’s commitment to working hand-in-hand with farmers to modernize the sector. Compared to major industries like information-technologies and automobiles, Korea’s agriculture industry is still in its nascent stages.

As much as the casual jacket replacing the suit served as a symbolic gesture a little after Minister Chang Tae-pyong’s appointment in August 2008, the nation’s top agriculture policymaker has demonstrated his undivided commitment to building the global competitiveness of an industry that is at a crossroads.

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Women and Climate Change: Interview with Ms. Jang, President of Women’s Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF), South Korea

1. How does climate change affect women farmers and how can they better adapt to it?

Agriculture is going through a lot of changes worldwide. These changes include positive elements such as industrialization, technology development, and mass production. But it also includes negative elements such as scarcity of natural resources due to climate change. These changes affect not only the agriculture sector but also many other sectors in society.

Cultivation surroundings in farming like weather, water and soil are constantly changing. Agriculture is called ‘The third IT industry’ since production history tracing systems, information exchange and data processing is needed in agriculture as much as other industries need. Coal yard green growth and green technology are at the center of public conversation recently and women farmers’ roles are important to keep the pace of farm products, orchard, vegetables and garden products with consumers’ taste.

The main topics of 21st century are food, environment, culture and safety. The fact that women farmers have main role in food production cannot be overemphasized. The future of value creation of agriculture in suburban areas depends on women farmers. We should be able to develop traditional knowledge, culture, environment, local resources and family farmer resources and make an income out of them to be prepared for the uncertain future.

Continue reading Women and Climate Change: Interview with Ms. Jang, President of Women’s Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF), South Korea

The 2007 Jeju Declaration on Natural Farming

jeju natural farming nov 2007(The following is the declaration that came out of the International Conference on Natural Farming held in Jeju, South Korea on November 5-9, 2007 that was attended by AFA, represented by Treasurer Vicente Fabe and Project Officer Marciano Virola, Jr. SorKorPor, an AFA member in Thailand, also attended, represented by Chairperson Vikit and Secretary General Chaiwat Suravichai)

Our earth is screaming.

The natural ecological system has been broken, the climate has become abnormal, the chemical contamination has become an urgent issue worldwide, and the whole ecosystem has fallen into a crisis. The agriculture and the food supply are being threatened.

The small scale farming, where farmers live close to nature, utilize natural blessing respectfully, cultivate and lice as close families, is dwindling. Farm lands are moving toward the large scale mechanized farming where chemical fertilizers and pesticides are routinely used to improve the short-term productivity. A key consequence is the environmental pollution such as soil degradation and water contamination as well as the destruction of the food safety. More sales with more profit are emphasized over the steady delivery of safe food. This change in the farming philosophy helps hunger to spread throughout the world.

Today’s crisis in agriculture and food is largely caused by the efficiency-driven economy and scientific technology. Market economy is dominated by the survival of the strongest. The large scale farming supported by big capital investments is driving out the traditional small scale family farming which has been relying upon the natural power of the land. Continue reading The 2007 Jeju Declaration on Natural Farming