Don’t block beefThe government and the opposition party have presented follow-up measures to soften the impact of the resumption of U.S. beef imports. They include abolishing slaughter taxes and providing subsidies to Korean farmers so they can improve the quality of Korean beef, or hanwoo. Some farmers’ organizations and the opposition party don’t accept the agreement reached at negotiations over the imports and are intensely protesting the pact, demanding U.S. beef imports be reduced by half.
Farmers may feel that these measures are insufficient. But U.S. beef imports can’t and shouldn’t be halted forever. Most importantly, in the negotiations, the topic was not the opening of the Korean beef market. It was about the resumption of U.S. beef imports, which were halted only temporarily when mad cow disease occurred in the United States. As U.S. beef again met hygiene standards, the temporary measure to stop importing beef from the U.S. has been lifted. The United Democratic Party argues that we were forced to give our entire market to the United States and we gave up our right to quarantine. But this argument is misleading.
We have consistently demanded that the imports be resumed, even if there is no such demand from the United States. It is important to protect Korean farmers, but we believe that consumers’ right to eat quality beef for lower prices is as important. President Lee Myung-bak, who is visiting Japan, explained that the resumption of beef imports from the U.S. was necessary even without a free trade agreement with the United States. Kim Hyo-seuk, the UDP floor leader, said that the decision to resume U.S. beef imports was a political gift offered to the United States shortly before a summit meeting. This is groundless political criticism.
The UDP seems to be trying to avoid handling a bill to ratify the free trade agreement between Korea and the United States, using the beef issue as an excuse, in a special session of the National Assembly scheduled for April 25. This is a populist move which distorts the truth and is the wrong attitude for a political party that is concerned with national interests.
We urge the UDP to stop its unreasonable attempts to make U.S. beef imports a political issue and to actively take part in handling the trade accord bill in the upcoming special session of the National Assembly. A free trade agreement with Washington is almost the only achievement by the former Roh Moo-hyun administration, on which the UDP is based.