Farmers in South Korea who grow crops allocated by the government like beans or corn will receive W400,000 (US$1=W1,155) in state subsidies per hectare of land to make up for potential losses from the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Fishermen on islands more than 8 km from the mainland will receive W490,000 a year in state subsidy payments per family.
The measures go into force this year after the FTA goes into effect. They were newly added to a batch of remedies announced in August when the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties met later last year to reach a deal that would allow the FTA to be ratified.
A total of 681,000 farming households will benefit from the subsidies this year, for which the government has set aside W62.4 billion. The payments will be made in December every year and the recipients will be those who work the farm rather than the owners of the land.
Payment to fishermen on islands 50 km from the mainland will be given on a trial basis this year, and extended to fishing households on islands 8 km from the mainland next year to hand out a total of W11 billion.
But Prof. Lee Young at Hanyang University warned permanent cash support will weaken the competitiveness of farming and fishing households and weigh on fiscal spending. Prof. Huh Yoon at Sogang University said, “This is indiscriminate support and is a classic example of pork-barrel populism.”
Due to such subsidies, the budget for follow-up measures for the FTA, which had been set at W22.1 trillion until 2017, has risen to W24.1 trillion. When tax cuts worth W29.8 trillion for farmers are included, a total of W54 trillion in taxpayer’s money will be spent to implement the FTA.
The government will have been paying out a total of W206 trillion worth of support to farming households between 1992, when the Uruguay Round of reduced agricultural tariffs was signed, and 2013.
But the Board of Audit and Inspection found in April of last year that the subsidies are often misappropriated.