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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 10:08 GMT
S Korea farmers protest over rice
By Kevin Kim
BBC, Seoul

South Korean farmers fights with riot police as they march toward the presidential Blue House (19/11/04)
There were angry confrontations with police
South Korean rice farmers have clashed with police in Seoul to protest against an increase in rice imports.

Farmers threw stones as they tried to break through a barricade and the police fought back by spraying water into the crowd.

Police set up checkpoints at major highways leading into Seoul to stop farmers from bringing sticks and iron bars into the city.

At least 10,000 people were reported to have taken part in the protest.

The dispute over rice stems from an agreement 10 years ago, when South Korea signed a global trade deal which temporarily prevented the full opening up of its rice market.

But the country now faces a December deadline to ease the restrictions.

The Seoul government has been negotiating with rice exporting countries, including the United States, China and Thailand, to extend the grace period.

As a condition for extending import restrictions, Seoul will have to double its rice import quota to about 8% of local consumption.

South Korean farmers are against any increase in rice imports.

They say it is hard to make a profit already, and if cheaper, foreign rice was allowed to enter the market, they would go out of business.




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Angry rice farmers clash with police



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