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Beef Imports to Korea: An Open Letter to President Bush
Korean middle school student Chae-song Kim asks that the trade agreement be reconsidered
Chae-song Kim (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2008-06-14 17:04 (KST)   
Dear Mr. President,

Hello. I am an ordinary Korean teenager but I am not sending you this letter for an ordinary reason. I wanted to talk about something very serious with you. It is about the new agreement between the Republic of Korea and the United States.

Our countries are now both very sensitive about the beef issue. My belief is that free trade must be fair trade, as US ambassadors are on record as saying in the FTA between Peru, which means that both countries should benefit.

I admit that Korea has benefitted from trade in the areas of automobile exports, IT products, and cell phones. However, Koreans are very upset with their government. This is clear from the candlelight demonstrations in Korea, yet our government is saying that it is not possible to renegotiate the KORUS FTA agreement because of the federal government.

This is a photo that I took from the Seoul Plaza Hotel. There were more than 700,000 people gathered there. The news reported that only 19.7 percent said "yes" to President Lee. The rule about the trade agreement says, roughly, that within 20 days of the signing, if many citizens say "no" to the agreement, it is possible to make changes. What would be the problem to change the agreement now?

If the US and the Korean government do not accept people's opinions, the next generation of Koreans will have a negative image of the United States. We are trying not to buy products made in the United States and we do not respect our President. In the long term, demonstrations by Koreans will cause more damage to the US than changing this agreement would.

I've read that on March 20, 1996, BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) spread in the UK because prions are not destroyed until heated to 600 degrees Celsius.

This tells us that there is a high possibility of BSE infection in humans because even if humans cook their beef products thoroughly, prions are not going to be destroyed. Even the US Congress is saying that Canadian beef is dangerous and that the US shouldn't import Canadian beef aged over 30 months.

Even if Congress still says that Koreans have no proof about the dangers of BSE in US beef, we should err on the side of caution and emphasize prevention. Why would the European Union say "no", completely, to US beef? Why would the US itself not consume beef older than 30 months? The truth is that there is a possibility of it being very dangerous.

BSE has spread since the 1980s. Scientists say that it is caused by the use of animal feed made from cows that already have the disease. Since then, for 20 years, in countries all around the world, cows in countries like the United Kingdom, have consumed such feed and BSE became a serious problem. Along with Europe, in 2001 Japan detected BSE in cattle and in 2003, even the US discovered BSE in its stocks.

Regardless of this, I've been told that the United States is still allowing the production of feed based on cow parts. Also, without any outstanding symptoms, the cow is butchered and allowed to be exported. With this in mind, would Korean citizens feel safe about imported US beef?

I want to ask you: Wouldn't this agreement be beneficial to the US only in the short term? Couldn't this agreement be perceived as violating the rights of Koreans to feel safe? Please consider the result that this agreement could and will leave, both now and for the future.

I am considering going to an Ivy League college. If I succeed, and even if I don't, children in the States are my friends. Their family is my family. I just want my family in Korea and my US family to be healthy. I hope you셪l be remembered as a president who cared for citizens' health.

A concerned Korean student,

Chae-song Kim
©2008 OhmyNews

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