Large rallies with tens of thousands of demonstrators, the mobilization of 21 000 riot officers, candlelight vigils and the offer of resignation from the Prime Minister and the President’s entire cabinet, all because of beef?!
That’s what’s happening right now in South Korea.
Korea was once the third largest importer of US beef but in 2003 it imposed a ban on American beef as a result of mad cow disease being detected in American Cattle.
However, in April, President Lee cut a deal with Washington to lift the ban on importing US beef, prompting an uproar from the population that fears for their health. Sources do point to the fact that these demonstrations are also about President’s Lee’s leadership and policies. According to Tami Overby, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul, “beef is a lightning rod for everyone who has a beef with President Lee".
So far, shipment of US beef into Korea has been suspended until a deal can be signed preventing cattle of over 30 months old from entering the country, in hopes of assuaging the population’s food safety fears. Both Seoul and Washington continue to insist U.S. beef is safe, but protesters say they can't trust the President, and there seems to be no end in sight to the demonstrations.