Take responsibility

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Take responsibility

It is truly fortunate that the confusion over U.S. beef imports has finally started to be resolved. The U.S. government has accepted the Korean government’s declaration that it would halt beef imports from the United States if mad cow disease occurs there. It turned out Korea’s negotiators mistranslated U.S. regulations on protein-based feed in the United States, but that can be understood as a simple mistake. It is time to end the finger-pointing and fighting.
We have so far taken an understanding stance toward the recent negotiations over the opening of our beef market, considering the inevitability of a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and imports of U.S. beef. However, as a major obstacle has now been overcome, we need to look back on the process and examine it step-by-step.
In a cabinet meeting, President Lee Myung-bak pointed out that there was a lack of communication with the public in the handling of the beef issue. The president drew the line at getting rid of the responsible government official, saying there is not much of a point in replacing another member of the government yet again. He said it’s more important to do one’s best not to make the same mistakes again.
This might be true. If the government were to work harder to promote its policies, it probably wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. However, if the fundamental reason behind the missteps was not a lack of communication but an overall lack of competence, the solution should be different. There is no guarantee that the administration will not make even more serious mistakes in the future unless wrongs are righted now.
For the past two weeks or so, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has repeatedly made mistakes that are difficult to see as a mere lack of communication. The ministry didn’t understand how volatile the U.S. beef import issue was before it made an important decision on the matter. It failed to address standards about the age of butchered cows and regulations on beef imports during negotiations. As the situation worsened, the ministry presented follow-up measures, but many criticized that they were drawn up hastily and were unlikely to produce results. This whole situation can be regarded as nothing but overall incompetence.
Therefore, we believe that it is time for the minister of food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries to take responsibility and step down. His ministry handles issues concerning food. If nothing is changed, it will be hard to restore trust in the safety of our food. Also, it is still unclear whether the National Assembly will ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade accord. Only when the minister resigns can momentum for the FTA be reignited and our society take a cool-headed, rational approach to the mad cow disease issue. The Blue House must make a decision before the opposition party demands that the minister resign. That is the least it can do for the citizens.
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