Fishy politics

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Fishy politics

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The 1998 Korea-Japan fishery agreement was a death sentence for negotiators on both sides of the table. Sato Kouko, who led the negotiations for the Liberal Democratic Party Special Committee on International Fishery Problems, was defeated in the general elections of 2000, bringing the curtain down on his 34-year political career. In Korea, the former Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Kim Sun-kil, was forced to step down after becoming entangled in a controversy over trawling boat quotas.

Both countries agreed to base the allowed number of boats and fishing quotas on data from between 1994 and 1996. A Korean survey concluded that pair trawlers had not fished in the Japan seas for the preceding two years. Despite this, the Korean government managed to reach an agreement on 2,873 tons as the quota for pair trawling. However, startled Korean fishermen insisted that they actually captured 6,500 tons yearly through this method.

This erupted into a big issue. Korean negotiators flew to Tokyo to asked for additional rounds of negotiations. Eventually, the pair trawlers were allowed to go back to fishing in Japanese waters, as they had apparently done so before.

But achieving this so-called victory came at a high price. The Korean government was pushed to concede other important quotas to Japan in exchange. So did these concessions pay off and allow pair trawling to achieve successful results in Japanese seas Since 1999, the annual fishing results for this method have continued to mark a record-breaking zero tons so far, except the year 2000 when a total of 20 tons was caught.

Renegotiations yielded unfavorable results, even though the government went though a humiliating diplomatic process.

If the Korea-Japan fishery agreement was a hand grenade, the U.S. beef deal would have to be a nuclear bomb.

Top presidential aides have been comprehensively dumped, and ministers as well as negotiators in the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have no choice but to wait until the final decision on their destiny is made. President Lee Myung-bak kneeled down, saying, “Even though I suffer from great pain, I will make every effort to reinvent myself, based on my loyalty to the public.”

Candlelight vigils have already changed many things. However, if anger persists longer than expected, it might achieve unwanted results, as shown in the case of pair trawling a decade ago. If we follow the old rule an eye for an eye we would all be blind. Martin Luther King Jr.said that we can not just resort to anger as a means to change the world.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Chul-ho [newsty@joongang.co.kr]

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