I've tried to stay away from the mad cow issue for a while now (both physically and intellectually) because you can read about it everywhere these days, but I thought I would post this article just for those of you who don't compulsively read the Hankyoreh like I do. I think the issue deserves a wider, critical reading which I don't have time to do. [Update: I've elaborated a little bit more on this issue in a reply to anonymous reader Scott on a previous post] Certainly there are those who want to pin it down to anti-americanism but I think the issue is much more complicated than that. Mostly it seems about the attitude of the president and ruling party both to principled negotiation and to protest. Theoretically I'm sure there are just as lax, or worse, safety regulations on some Korean or Chinese or Australian products but that doesn't seem to be the key issue, it's just that government seems so open about accepting a lower standard and repressing opposition to its position by brandishing the opposition as violent or leftists and arresting them. That the government has not realized that most of the people protesting come from a less institutionalized background than the unions or NGOs has really been one of their fatal flaws, nothing creates a generation of activists more than ideologically branding them 'communists' and them putting them in jail as seems to have happened to a number of people from high school students to housewives and retirees over the last few weeks. Oh well, that should provide a welcome antidote for Park Chung Hee nostalgia and further erode LMB's support base. Good work, and done in less than three months in office!
S. Korea resumes U.S. beef imports
Opposition parties still demanding that beef agreement be renegotiated
Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries Chung Woon-chun on May 29 announced the conditions for the importation of U.S. beef and apologized about the government’s handling of negotiations on the import sanitary terms. The beef agreement was reached with the United States on April 18.
In reaction, opposition parties, including the United Democratic Party, declared to stage outdoor protests to nullify the announcement. Civic organizations are also strongly against the announcement, taking the next step in their fight against the resumption of U.S. beef imports by renewing their protests and continuing to call for renegotiation of the deal.
Chung pledged to step up efforts to fully manage quarantine inspection procedures and beef distribution. The ministry also requested that the Ministry of Public Administration and Security publish the announcement under the name of the related minister via a government newsletter. The newsletter will carry the announcement sometime around June 3.
As a result, Korea will begin importing U.S. beef with few limitations on the age of the animal and the kinds of animal parts allowed into the country, including bone-in meat and intestines.
According to the new import conditions, all animal parts from cattle younger than 30 months old, except for tonsils and the end of the small intestine, will be imported. For beef from cattle older than 30 months, Korea will import all animal parts, with the exclusion of seven specified risk materials known to be at higher risk for mad cow disease, such as back bones.
These changes are quite different from the original rules, which stipulated that only beef from cattle less than 30 months of age would be allowed. South Korea has banned imports of bone-in-beef for four and half years since 2003. U.S. beef imports have been banned completely since last October when bone fragments were found in a shipment of imported meat.
The final announcement contains the full text of the ROK-U.S. beef agreement, with the exchange of letters denoting U.S. recognition of Korea’s quarantine sovereignty attached. The exchange of letters was signed by trade representatives from South Korea and the United States during an additional round of negotiations earlier this month.
In consideration of the people’s concern about the safety of U.S. beef and the effect of the resumption of imports on South Korean livestock farmers, the ministry announced that all of the nation’s restaurants will be required to inform customers of the country of origin of all beef dishes.
Opposition parties and civic groups have renewed their protests against the government’s enforcement of the beef notification and are planning to take further steps to nullify it. The UDP issued a resolution on the same day the ministry made its announcement, saying that the only way to resolve the current crisis and satisfy the people’s demands is for the government to abandon its plan to enforce the notification and immediately begin renegotiations. “If the notification takes effect, we will stage all-out protests to nullify the beef deal,” the UDP said.
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