Korea and its U.S. beef protests

Changwon Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 7 › view all entries

So last night, around 10 pm, as I and some others were making our way to a Noraebong (singing room), we came across a bit of a protest. A few hundred people, carrying flashlights and candles and escorted by a large assortment of police officers, were marching through the main thoroughfares of my city in a protest.

Their worthy cause?! No crazy cow U.S. beef.

In February, Korea elected a new President. This President is very interested in strengthening U.S. ties and is really pushing hard for a Free Trade Agreement between our two countries. For this to happen, the U.S. has demanded the reopening of beef imports. Beef from the U.S., and many other major countries, was banned around 2003 due to the Mad Cow Disease scare.

Last month, President Lee met with President Bush and set out a plan to begin importing U.S. beef once again.

And then, the fallout. Since that time there has been an utterly confounding backlash against the President and this plan. The media has worked this country into a frenzy, claiming outlandish things (like Koreans are more genetically susceptible to Mad Cow Disease than other races) that would be laughed off the table in most other places.

Protests have been springing up more and more in the last few weeks and last night the misfortune happened upon the streets of my city as well.

It seemed a bit of a slap in the face of my national pride, for better or worse. Without this beef deal, the FTA will be in jeopardy. No FTA will surely hurt Korea in one way or another, seeing as how so much trading goes on between our countries (ever heard of Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and Kia?).

Beef prices in Korea are close to 11 bucks a pound as the Korean "cattle farmers" grossly overcharge everyone simply because they can. The hysteria this beef issue has caused was amusing at first, but has become downright ridiculous. Almost every student I have has made some sort of crazy cow comment. Never mind that there was ONE case FIVE YEARS ago in the U.S. (and the person wasn't even infected in the U.S.!) Never mind that there's a much bigger issue at hand, namely, 31 cases of humans being infected with Avian Flu right here, right now, in South Korea. You hardly ever read about that in the news, though.

Anyway, just another day in Korea. Still holding out that this works and I get some beef that doesn't cost me a fortune. :)
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photo by: jlchatham