[LETTERS to the editor]If not nationalism, what drives protests?

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[LETTERS to the editor]If not nationalism, what drives protests?

In the letter (“It’s not Nationalism or Anti-Americanism,” July 4) Lee Ji-hyun is unable to understand how many observers of the anti-U.S. beef protests have branded the demonstrations examples of nationalism and anti-Americanism.

It is not surprising to find someone as badly informed on this issue as Lee. After all, the mad cow hysteria in this country has, from its inception, been based on falsehood and fiction.

Most laughable of these was the notion that Koreans were somehow more susceptible to the human form of mad cow disease than people from the West. This ludicrous claim originated from the now infamous “PD Diary” segment in which it was claimed that Koreans were 2 to 3 times more likely to contract the disease than other people. In this regard, the program cited the work of Hallim University Medical School Professor Kim Yong-seon. Professor Kim quickly corrected them and angrily denied that he had said any such thing. He stated quite publicly that no such conclusion could be drawn because there was no scientific evidence to support it. He was joined in that denunciation by Korea’s leading expert in the field, Shin Hee-seop, head of the Neuroscience Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.

Notwithstanding the fact that Korea’s leading scientists and the author of the original paper on the subject have clearly stated that there is no evidence to support a genetic susceptibility to mad cow disease in the Korean populace, the anti-U.S. beef crowd continue to believe it and routinely rely on this as a key fact behind the protests. It’s truly astounding.

Many other such fallacies, half truths and nonsense were put forth in support of the demonstrations ? Americans don’t eat beef from cows older than 30 months, the meat being exported to Korea is beef Americans refuse to eat, Korea has no right to refuse further shipments of American beef should another case of mad cow be discovered ? all lies and exaggerations. How could so many people blindly accept such misinformation?

Finally there is the issue of Korean beef safety standards. In 2007, Korea applied to the OIE for its own BSE risk assessment. The result was that the OIE ranked Korean beef a more dangerous product to consume than the American variety. This was due to the fact that Korea simply doesn’t do much BSE testing and has feed and inspection regulations that are less strict and less stringently enforced than in the U.S. It’s all well and fine to say that there has never been a case of mad cow in Korea, but if you’re not looking for it, how would you know?

So where are the candlelight vigils protesting against the danger of eating Korean beef? It seems the mad cow crowd is only concerned about the safety of beef when the product is American. Korean beef gets a free pass.

That duplicitous and discriminatory treatment of the two products is part of the reason why so many of us see this whole issue as rooted in nationalism and anti-U.S. sentiment rather than any genuine concern for health safety.

I am neither Korean nor American. I owe no patriotic loyalty to either country in this matter. I have lived in Korea for seven years and have always found that Korean people pride themselves on the level of education they have achieved here and the emphasis Korean society places on study and learning. Koreans are, on balance, a highly educated people. So why was such a studious and learned group so quick to abandon fact, logic and reason for lies, falsehood and hysteria? And why would such a highly educated populace be so concerned about getting mad cow disease from American beef while routinely consuming the Korean variety which, by any objective scientific standard, carries a greater risk of carrying the disease? Taken from this perspective one can easily see why so many people have concluded that the protests have little to do with health concerns and more with nationalism and anti-U.S. sentiment.

Wayne Richard, Ilsan, Gyeonggi
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