Seoul: thousands of people protest Bush visit, APEC summit

Thousands of people carrying anti-globalization placards demonstrated in central Seoul today against a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders set to promote trade liberalization this week.

More than 18,000 protesters near the U.S. Embassy also denounced a visit by U.S. President W. Bush, who is one of 21 leaders due to attend the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit set to open Friday in the southern city of Busan.

"We oppose Bush's visit, we oppose APEC," read placards carried by protesters, members of one of the country's two umbrella labor groups. Some marched with masks of Bush's face.

The protesters also called for fair treatment of temporary workers.

Separately, a 38-year-old farmer in a southern province committed suicide, police said Sunday, apparently lamenting the growing plight of South Korean farmers who are facing global pressure to reduce barriers to the local rice market.

Police said the body of Chung Yong-pum was found Saturday morning in Damyang with a suicide note that read: "The government should set realistic agricultural policies so that farmers can live well." He killed himself by drinking herbicide.

Late last year, South Korea agreed with the United States and eight other rice-exporting countries to nearly double rice imports by 2014 to 7.96 percent of domestic consumption, or about 408,700 tons (450,500 U.S. tons).

Parliamentary approval for the plan has been delayed due to protests by farmers, who fear cheaper rice from China and the United States will undercut the market.

Protest organizers plan mass rallies around the APEC summit to criticize Bush's policies and globalization at the expense of local markets.

Security is tight in Busan and police aim to keep rallies far from the venues where leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, will meet, AP reports.

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