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☞ Issue 108
글씨크기 크게 글씨크기 작게 기사 메일전송 기사 출력
U.S. beef agreement divides political arena

Displeasure with decision to allow beef imports cuts across party lines

관리자 (2008/05/04 23:42)  

The political community is facing a deepening divide over the government’s recent agreement to open its market to U.S. beef, with some asking for re-negotiation with Washington and others arguing that the concerns are excessive and not based on concrete proof.

The ruling Grand National Party blamed rival parties for politicizing the beef issue by intensifying the threat of mad cow disease. GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo said at a recent party meeting, “The argument that imports of U.S. beef will lead to the spread of mad cow disease is like an instigation, which could cause psychological panic. Some lawmakers from the United Democratic Party said during a parliamentary committee meeting that the genetic structure of the South Korean people is susceptible to mad cow disease, so 95 percent of those who eat affected meat could develop the deadly disease. They should provide proof for their arguments. There have been no such cases among Korean students and others living in the U.S.”

Still, there are new voices emanating from the ruling party calling for re-negotiation of the beef deal. In a press release, Won Hee-ryong, a GNP lawmaker, said: “The people’s distrust is justifiable and the government should not disregard this perspective.” The lawmaker also demanded that the government conduct quarantine inspections of all U.S. beef imports and impose a ban on imports of beef from cattle over 30 months old, which are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

The UDP, meanwhile, called for a renegotiation of the deal and formed a committee to have it annulled. Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu said, “In the negotiations, President Lee Myung-bak gave up (the government’s) right to protect the people’s health and implement the quarantine process for political purposes. This is an unthinkable result. Against this backdrop, the administration and the GNP have intensified their offensive against the previous administration of Roh Moo-hyun and the media.”

Smaller opposition parties are united in their criticism of the government for going ahead with the beef deal in spite of lingering concerns about mad cow disease. Park Sun-young, a spokesperson of the Liberty Forward Party, said in a statement, “The government is trying to deceive the people by politicizing the concerns raised by the opposition parties ... The government’s careless stance of neglecting the people (the people’s health) cannot resolve the beef issue. We urge the government to put the issue to a national referendum and let the people judge for themselves.”
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