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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Koreans protest over trade pact
Korean FTA demonstration
Thousands of South Koreans have downed tools to oppose the trade deal
Thousands of South Koreans have taken to the streets of their capital, Seoul, to protest against a bilateral free trade agreement with the US.

The demonstrations involved workers at carmakers Hyundai and Kia, where an estimated 40,000 staff have been striking in protest at the deal.

Many Korean workers and farmers fear the deal will cost jobs.

The free trade agreement will cut tariffs and is due to be signed in Washington within 24 hours on 30 June.

The Korean Metal Workers' Union estimated that 20,000 of its members joined farmers and students at the street demonstration.

Approaching deadline

Assembly lines stand idle at the Hyundai Motor factory in Ulsan, south of Seoul
Hyundai has been hit by strikes in protest at the agreement

The deal had originally been agreed in April after ten months of difficult negotiations.

The US sought to renegotiate the deal following intervention from Congressional Democrats, and this week South Korea accepted US conditions, which include tighter employment and environmental standards.

Trade between the US and South Korea was worth $74bn (37bn) in 2006 and the deal will be South Korea's largest-ever trade agreement.

However the deal can only be fast-tracked by the Bush administration if it is agreed by midnight on June 30.

After this deadline the US administration's special trade authority expires, leaving the US Congress with the option of altering the terms of the deal.

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