Talk to the young on beefAnother candlelight vigil will be held this evening to protest the planned resumption of U.S. beef imports.
Text messages saying, “Let’s attend the rally to protest the beef imports; forward this message to your friends,” have been sent to a lot of middle and high school students in the nation since early this month.
Regardless of the growing interest in the protests among young students, the Korean government unfortunately hasn’t taken any steps.
We can understand that middle and high school students feel a vague sense of uneasiness over the mad cow disease issue.
It makes us uncomfortable, however, to see teenagers, who need to pursue their dreams, take to the streets for candlelight vigils.
The Korean government should not prevent them with arms.
Conducting secret police investigations and sending written orders to urge students not to participate in the rally will just cause side effects while spurring them more.
At this time, the formula that President Lee Myung-bak, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and other ministers should use is to create a dialogue with students to persuade them.
That was the strategy of the first president of South Korea, Syngman Rhee.
He invited students who demanded his resignation to his presidential residence in Jongno District in central Seoul. Once there, the president listened to them.
In addition, Kim Jong-pil, No. 2 man in the Park Chung Hee regime, visited college campuses to have discussions with students who took part in demonstrations.
Those are examples of a practical approach using mutual understanding.
If the government fails to communicate with the young students, who after all are our future, it will become a pitiful administration. Those in power should meet them and educate them so they can ease their fears regarding the imports of U.S. beef.
If students want, the government should use Korean-grown beef, or hanwoo, or Australian beef in their school lunches.
The government already decided to provide Korean beef to the military, so it is not difficult for them to offer Korean beef to elementary, middle and high schools.
We hope government officials come closer to students and talk with them at protest.
To regain the support of the people, it is vital that the government communicates clearly with students.