S. Korean Activists Resume Protests Against US Beef

South Korean animal rights activists stage a campaign against import of U.S. beef in front of the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2012.
South Korean animal rights activists stage a campaign against import of U.S. beef in front of the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2012.



Activists pressuring South Korea's government to renew a ban on U.S. beef imports took to the streets Wednesday in Seoul.

Organizers are hoping to revive the street activism of four years ago when South Korea decided to resume U.S. beef imports.  That movement turned into the largest anti-government protests this country had seen in 20 years.

The catalyst for this candlelight rally is the first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, since 2006 in the United States.

The case involved a 10-year-old dairy cow in the state of California.

Those who want to re-impose the beef ban say they do not trust either the United States or South Korea's government to properly screen cattle for the neurological disorder.

Humans eating meat from affected animals are at risk to acquire a variant of the rare, but fatal, brain-wasting disease.  Nearly all of the approximately 200 cases in the past six years have been in Europe.  There has never been a human case in South Korea.

But that has not kept South Korean consumers like these from shunning American beef in recent years.  The main buyers of U.S. beef in South Korea are schools, the military and some restaurants.

A larger target for the thousands of protesters who have turned out tonight is a recently activated trade agreement between Seoul and Washington.  The political left hopes to turn the trade pact into an election issue during this year's South Korean presidential campaign.

South Korea is the fourth-largest importer of American beef.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: anonymous
May 02, 2012 10:26 AM
US has got to clean up their beef industry and stop the practice of feeding animal proteins to cows.

0.1% sample testing for mcd is too small a sample to determine the safety of the entire US stock.

by: Soo-Ann Kim
May 02, 2012 9:07 AM
Most the my people are readers of social media.Most I say 98% no the US beef if safe unlike previous year.Politic activist here are small and a protest on many issue not just us beef.My familys factory worker all aware US beef very safe and US quarantine very success.We happy eat Us beef.Sori english bad.I wish people US know people nowadays more aware and safe the Us markets for eat beefs from your cattle.

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