[LETTERS to the editor]It’s not nationalism or anti-AmericanismThe biggest candlelight rally that took place on June 10 made the front page of The New York Times.
The recent turmoil regarding imports of U.S. beef has raised controversial issues. I was curious about what Americans think about this, as I’ve seen several foreigners also participating in the protests in front of Seoul City Hall. Some praised the citizens for standing up against the government to express their opinions; others even held up signs calling for Lee’s impeachment.
However what made me furious were opinions and articles about Korean nationalism and anti-Americanism. Nonsense! When Koreans are worried to death about their health and the safety of their people due to exaggerated rumors about mad cow disease, Americans, without trying to understand our situation, are calling it “anti-Americanism.”
President Lee was elected in a landslide for his support of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Koreans truly favored negotiating the FTA, which we thought would enhance the economy and improve relations with the U.S. However, after Lee’s hasty decision regarding U.S. beef, and the media’s focus on the risks of mad cow disease, people began to worry and panic. When a documentary on mad cow disease, in which an American woman’s death was mentioned, was nationally televised, people got scared and believed Lee made a huge mistake in fully opening Korea’s beef market.
More exaggerated rumors about the disease spread quickly through the Internet and for precisely this reason, candlelight rallies began. Students came out on the streets to speak up for their safety and adults joined too.
An interesting point to make is that America itself also restricts beef imports from Canada to cattle under 30 months old because of the risk of mad cow disease. If America opened its beef market fully to Canada, and people worried about the risk of disease came out on the streets to protest, would this be anti-Canadianism?
Candlelight rallies are not about Korean nationalism, it’s about the safety of U.S. beef. Even though there isn’t sufficient evidence that U.S. beef [carries health risks], the Korean people want to take precautions, just like the Americans, regarding Canada’s beef. So stop labeling this protest anti-Americanism or Korean nationalism. It does not make any sense.
Lee Ji-hyun, a high school student
in Nowon-gu, Seoul