Say yes to yes

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Say yes to yes

Talks between Korea and the United States on the terms of U.S. beef imports to Korea have gone through.

This time, both governments guaranteed that U.S. beef from cattle over 30 months old cannot enter the Korean market. Also, both governments agreed that even in imports of beef from cattle under 30 months old, the category of specified risk material that will be banned from imports will be broader.

They reportedly almost agreed in principle that the Korean government has the right to approve or reject U.S. slaughterhouses that will butcher cattle for exportation to Korea. Although the official announcement has not been made, the progress so far is viewed in an optimistic light.

It seems the U.S. beef controversy is nearing an end, with three key issues -Korea’s sovereign right to quarantine imported beef, banning import of beef from cattle 30 months or older and a broader category of specified risk material being ironed out. Groups who protested U.S. beef imports as well as opposition parties are saying they want more renegotiation. But as Korea has persuaded the U.S. government to ensure that the above three key issues are dealt with, we don’t have to be hung up on the word “renegotiation” anymore. If the heart of the matter is the safety and health of the Korean public, then ensuring the execution of stricter safety procedures is the ultimate goal.

From now, the main concern is whether or not these safety procedures really come into effect. Above all else, the identification of the beef’s origin and cattle age should be strictly enforced. If these are carried out properly, the Korean public will be able to let go of their skepticism about the safety of U.S. beef.

The government last month extended the identification requirement from only butcher shops to include all restaurants. However, the number of people was not increased enough to properly enforce these regulations and check to see if they are executed.

Therefore, Korea needs the active cooperation of butcher shop owners and restaurant owners to voluntarily observe these requirements.

The safety of meat in Korea should not only be the responsibility of a few civil servants, but of all the members of Korean society. Carrying out safety procedures to make the country’s distribution process transparent should not be delayed any longer.
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