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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
S Korean kills himself over WTO
Anti-globalisation Korean activists help Mr Lee
Mr Lee's suicide came on the opening day of the talks
A South Korean farmer has committed suicide during a violent demonstration against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Cancun.

Lee Kyung-hae, aged 55, stabbed himself in protest against WTO agricultural policies on Wednesday.

He was among hundreds of farmers from different countries, who staged angry protests at the sidelines of the trade talks.

According to the WTO, South Korea, like Japan, has a very protected rice market.

Its farmers are therefore keen to protect their generous government subsidies from being reduced under a more open market system.

"Mr Lee committed suicide after seeing how the WTO was killing peasants around the world," according to a statement by about 50 South Korean farmers.

Koreans farmers mourn outside the hospital were the body of Lee Kyung-Hae is being kept
Other protesters held a vigil outside the hospital where Mr Lee died
According to witnesses, Mr Lee told other protesters at the demonstration: "Don't worry about me, just struggle your hardest," before stabbing himself in the heart with a knife.

He was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, but died nearly three hours later.

This was not the first time Mr Lee had taken part in global trade protests.

He staged a two-month hunger strike in front of WTO headquarters in Geneva last February, and he also plunged a knife into his stomach during the Uruguay trade negotiations in Geneva in 1990.

Mr Lee used to be the president of the Korean National Future Farmers Association, one of South Korea's main farming lobby groups.

The country's farmers vehemently oppose any opening of the agricultural market, or measures leading to a reduction in government support.

They demand the exclusion of the agricultural sector from all world trade negotiations, arguing that an open market would be a huge blow to South Korean agriculture.

Reforming global agriculture is one of the most contentious issues on the WTO summit's agenda, and there are deep divisions between the participating delegates.

Protesters argue that each country has a right to protect its food supply, and that farmers should not be forced to compete on a global level.

But others insist that large subsidies provide an unfair advantage to those farmers who receive them.

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