[KS] candlelight demonstrations in Korea and the beef deal issue

David Scofield D.Scofield at sheffield.ac.uk
Mon Jun 9 11:46:30 EDT 2008

I second Scott's observations. 

It would also be helpful if the article touched on the other side of the trade
issue: South Korea is asking, for example, that the US declare Korea free of
foot and mouth disease and to allow the import of Korean beef into the US. They
are also seeking agreement on the relaxation of restrictions on the import to
the US of canned ginseng chicken. And of course the larger issue of a free
trade agreement with the US and Korea's inclusion on the visa waiver list.
These street demonstrations - like so many in the past - are a way for the
South Korean government to leverage the US in negotiations. 

I sense the author is new to Korea and may not be aware that that 'spontaneous'
outpourings of emotion by Korea's netizens are anything but spontaneous.
Rather, as in the past (the 'poisoning' of the Han; the accidental death of the
two middle school students; Onno; the Liancourt rocks - Dokdo - fiasco...),
these demonstrations are the result of careful and deliberate agit prop by
certain groups (PSPD, Green Korea, Korea teacher's union) and sympathetic media
in S. Korea.

The author would do well to bear in mind that the Korean state has more than
enough riot police and soldiers to put down any demonstration they deem not to
be in the government's interest...these street demos happen because the
political establishment is not at all threatened by them (as long as people
perceive the enemy to be beyond Korea's shores), and see them as providing
useful leverage against the Americans, while reinforcing the notion in the
minds of many young Koreans that threats to Korea always originate from outside
Korea - it's a useful distraction that has been used by Korean politicians
since the Korean war, perhaps before.

A final thought. In July 2000, when the furore centered around the dumping of 20
gallons of formaldehyde into a drain at US Camp Humphries (the embalming fluid
was then processed through two separate treatment centers before reaching the
Han river), headlines screamed that the US army was "poisoning the Han
river"...street outrage ensued, prompted by Green Korea, the PSPD among others.
But what wasn't discussed, aside from the fact the chemical had been twice
treated and posed no threat to the river as a result, was that S. Korean
hospitals and clinics routinely dump chemicals like formaldehyde in a similar
way. Nor was the fact that lumber companies upstream of Seoul dump TONS of
formaldehyde untreated into the Han every year discussed. Neither point was
allowed to distract Korea's netizens from their rightful rage.


Quoting "J.Scott Burgeson" <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>:

> 1. `While cows 30 months of age and older at the time of slaughter are in
> general not allowed to be sold for food consumption in the US and elsewhere,
> the agreement between the US and South Korean government included the import
> of beef from cattle over 30 months old.`
> Q: Can you provide a reliable and up-to-date source for the first part of
> this statement? I have read elsewhere that beef over 30 months old is widely
> used esp. for hamburger meat in the US. 
> 2. `A video of a cow in the US that was unable to walk but was passed as
> acceptable to be slaughtered and its beef included in the human food supply
> was distributed on the Internet by netizens.`
> Vague attribution. What was the source of this video? MBC`s PD Such`op? And
> did that cow actually have BSE (I have heard otherwise)? Please provide a
> clear reference if possible.
>                          *  *  *  *  *
> Your article implies that there is insufficient democracy in South Korea but
> does not really explain why so few people chose to participate in the
> Presidential election of Dec. 2007 and thereby register their democratic will
> at the institutional level. Political apathy is distinct from lack of
> democracy. One might also note that the GNP won a majority of seats in
> Parliament in April, yet your article does not account for this phenomenon
> either (beyond perhaps objecting to it on ideological grounds). Up until
> recently the Korean electorate was seemingly conservative, which again is
> distinct from lack of democracy.
> ChoJoongDong have their biases but many of the left-leaning sources you site
> approvingly in your article have their biases as well, which renders the
> persuasiveness of your analysis somewhat less than it might otherwise be.
> --Scott Bug

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