Mad cow madnessThe public frenzy over fears of mad cow disease does not seem to be dying down easily. Internet rumors and political instigations have stirred up public sentiment to the point where there is no room for scientific truth or reasonable explanations. For the past week, Koreans have had a hard time snapping out of the state of fear and panic into which they have fallen.
Nevertheless, the government still can’t find a way to persuade the public about the safety of U.S. beef. The political opposition is attacking the administration, demanding that it redo the Washington-Seoul beef agreement. The turmoil over the beef imports has shown that this society has its limits when it comes to putting up with criticism.
Time will tell what is true and what is not. With a little common scientific knowledge, it is easy to figure out that the gruesome stories on the Internet about mad cow disease are outrageously false. It is the shocking visual materials and extreme hypotheses of non-experts that are scaring people. While the situation is continuing to put us into a collective spell, it is no use explaining that U.S. beef is safe.
But the social cost of waiting to find out what the truth could be is too high. Young students are taking to the streets for candlelight vigils, and we can’t let parents go on being frightened that the imports can affect their kids.
It is now time for the real experts to take care of the matter. The National Assembly hearing scheduled tomorrow will be a chance for them to speak up. Experts from medical circles such as veterinarians, genetic engineers and health inspectors should come together to present the truth about mad cow disease. The Korean scientific circle should show us that it can distinguish the facts from hyped-up misunderstandings.
We will be watching who creates a political stir and who tells the truth. We should also respect the conclusion the hearing comes up with to prevent further social confusion. The National Assembly should invite the very best experts in the field to the hearing in order to bring an end to this hysteria over mad cow disease.
If the hearing decides that the rumors are somewhat true, then there should be no more negotiations. The agreement should be dropped and imports should be halted.
However, if the hearing results in a different answer, the opposition should stop all its arguments. In this case, those who took to the streets should blow out their candles and put down their protest flags.