South Korea: Fearing Mad Cow Disease, New Protests Against US Beef

Thousands of South Koreans held candlelight protests this week to demonstrate against continued beef imports from the United States after the detection of mad cow disease in California in April. Four years earlier in 2008, when several tens of thousands gathered for the candlelight vigils to protest a planned import, the government eventually made promises to halt imports immediately whenever the disease breaks out.

The unkept promise now reignites public anger and has revived the four-year old tradition of candlelight vigils.

Protest Against US Beef Import

Twitter Photo by user @notable1980

Twitter user @notable1980 tweeted [ko] with a photo of protest above:

[촛불시즌2][2012년5월2일7시청계광장][…]”작은 실천이 세상을 바꿉니다.”

[Season Two of Candle Light (Vigil)] [7 pm, May 2, 2012, the City Hall Choenggye Square] […] “Small actions change the world”
Protest Against US Beef Import

Twitter Photo by @opentree20

Another user @opentree20 tweeted [ko] the photo above and said:

2009년 광우병 촛불이 처음 밝혀진지 딱 4년만입니다. 4년 전 그날처럼 국민들이 같은 마음으로 한 자리에 모여 촛불을 높이 들고 있네요. 미국산 소 수입 즉각 중단하십시오!

It has been exactly four years since the candles were lit up in 2009 to protest against the mad cow disease (-tainted meat). With the same mindset of those days back in 2009, Korean people now sit together to hoist up their candles. Please immediately halt importing US beef!
Protest Against US Beef Import

Twitter photo by @hyojinlovelove.

Kim Hyo-jin (@hyojinlovelove) tweeted from a scene of protest that continued late into the night.

이 시간 청계광장. 미국산 광우병 소고기 수입 반대 집회. 어김없이 촛불을 들다. 시간이 지날수록 더 많은 사람들이 모이고 있어요.

Now at Cheonggye Square- a protest against mad cow disease infected US beef imports. We lifted up our candles. More people have gathered as time goes by.
Protest Against US Beef Import

Twitter photo by @sisyphus79

A tweet by user @sisyphus79 read [ko]:

촛불 4주년 광우병 쇠고기 반대 촛불집회 현장입니다. 4년 전 그때의 공기가 이곳에서 느껴집니다.

This is the scene of candle light vigil against the mad cow disease tainted beef — just like what we had four years ago. I can feel the same air in this place.
Protest Against US Beef Import

Twitter Photo by @gree

Twitter user @gree tweeted [ko] the photo above and said:

다시 모이고, 다시 밝힌 촛불들이 외칩니다. “거짓말 정부 못 믿겠다. 광우병 쇠고기 수입 중단하라!”

The candle lights have once again came together and have been rekindled to shout out, “We can't trust this liar government any more. Stop importing the mad cow disease-tainted beef”.

Protesters waved candles and flags, sang songs and held banners that said “Protect the sovereignty of the people” and “Stop US beef imports” as can be seen in the pictures above. About 4,000 police officers were dispatched to the protest scene and some demonstraters have been arrested [ko].

Protest Against US Beef Import

Twitter Photo by @ytnmania

YTN Labor Union, for employees of a South Korean national cable news channel, (@ytnmania) tweeted a photo of police (above) blocking the protesters:

4년만에 다시 모인 청계광장 광우병 규탄 촛불집회에 앵그리 YTN 조합원들도 참석! 경찰 청계광장을 미리 점거해서 자리가 비좁네요!

It has been four years, and the protesters have come again to stage a candlelight vigil against the tainted (US beef) at Cheonggye Square. We, the ANGRY YTN members have attended, even though this place is so crowded as the police already occupied the Square.

Back in 2008 mass protests broke out and continued for over a month. Since the government lifted its ban on imports, South Korea is now the fourth-largest importer of US beef in the world.

@wjsfree posted a video explaining why people are so concerned about the import in a Storify story.

A mass protest which started on May 2, 2012 continued for another day and is likely to continue throughout the next week. Several thousands gathered on the first day of protest and about a thousand [ko] continued rallying throughout the next day.

South Korea’s influential one-man media, Media Mongu uploaded a photo of a young girl who participated in the protest with her mother and grandmother. They are holding banners that read “Halt Imports (two on the right)” and “Protect Our Sovereignty (on the left)”.

Protest photo

Twitter Photo by Media Mongu

@jhohmylaw tweeted [ko] about his reasons for protesting on the second day:

(내가 오늘도 청계광장을 가는 이유) 1.촛불시위는 이제 시작일 뿐이다 2. 어제는 국민의 힘을 제대로 보여 주지 못했다. 3. MB정부, 쇠고기 수입중단 안하고 있다 4.자식의 안전을 걱정해야 하는 아버지다 5. 그곳에 가면 기분이 좋다.

(Why I go to the Cheongye Square again today) 1. It is only the beginning of candle light vigils. 2. Yesterday's protest was not strong enough to show the people's power. 3. The MB government [President Lee Myung-bak's initials] has not halted the import yet. 4. I am a father of children who worries about my kids’ health. 5. I just feel good being there.

Even the nation’s far right-wing newspapers which side with the government on almost every issue released a statistic [ko] showing 72.5 percent of Korean people want to halt the US beef imports. Meanwhile, a more progressive newspaper, Pressian, retrieved an image [ko] of a government advertisement from an old newspaper. The ad, paid for by the government's health department, said, “There is nothing more important than the public health. Count on us to protect you” and “If mad cow disease-contaminated beef were ever detected in the United States, we will immediately stop imports”.

The government's second promise was to run a thorough inspection on all imported beef and the origin of the disease breakout, which many Twitter users such as @yoji0802, thinks casts doubts [ko] on the accuracy of the results even before the inspection starts.


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