> Opinion > Perspective
The Korea-US Beef Agreement Inevitable Option, Importance of Rational Performance
Choi Won-mog  |  hjournal@hanyang.ac.kr
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[301호] 승인 2008.05.30  
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The recent agreement of the United States (US) beef was an inevitable agreement. In order to understand this, we should not feel this recent agreement being opening of the US beef market but reconsidering the hygiene standard when it was opened since 2001 and the ban that was made through BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) upheaval. Therefore, the choice we have is not to open or close the US beef market but what kinds of safety precautions are needed for the Korean? public health.

The new agreement has been settled so that entire parts are to be imported without any age limitation compared to the existing agreement of bringing in lean meat of under 30 months old. According to the SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement) by the WTO (World Trade Organization), they required for each countries to follow the international standard in hygiene. However, it is not mandatory and there are rights to create a stronger standard. For this to take place there is a necessity of scientific evidence saying that more strict regulations are needed. 

Even with several risk assessment made by Korea, the evidence could not persuade the international standard. This is the reason for Korea to take in the existing international standard. While there is no proof of which animal feed is causing the BSE and historical evidence of two BSE infected cattle from the US out of approximately 100 million slaughtered cow every year, there is not enough reason to import lean meat of cattle of 30 months or younger. In Korea, as an economical purpose, the media and the political powers were grouped with farmhouse's standpoint to taboo or dogmatized the importation of US beef. During this process, the consumers had to pay for the high-priced Korean beef for no reason and although they were the victims their voices were being lost.

Japan, applying the world's most strict regulation of importing cattle under 20 months, has the same logic. They had to prove their standpoint of importing cattle under 20 months and they have taken examinations proving that BSE causing protein, prion, was found on cattle of under 30 months but could not prove whether how it can affect humans. These inspections are for Japanese cattle, not on US beef, so there exists limitations in insisting 20 months limitations on US beef. Therefore, the standard proposed by the Organization for Animal Health (OIE) may be a high chance of being selected for their current US and Japan negotiation.

A serious problem can exist at this point. According to the recent agreement, if a future BSE is detected, unless the OIE drops the level of controlled BSE risk of US beef, Korea cannot suspend the importation of the US beef. It should be appropriate to temporarily suspend the importation even without scientific evidence through our right by the preservation of the WTO negotiation because the possibilities of detecting a new type of BSE cannot be neglected. And after going over the OIE's alteration, it would be enough time to return back to the international standard.
The civilization could not have developed without the help of science. Economic development by free trade and balance in public health are all dependent on science. Hygiene controversy is an important fact but lobbying hygiene standards with simple predictions by public sentiment and for-profit communities should not be permitted. International trade should take place by thorough scientific examination whether it is harmful or not and a new review of the past agreement should be made if new scientific evidence is presented.

Since Korea cannot do anything at this point, our supervision of the US beef is necessary and by any chance of illegal SRMs being distributed, the careful inspection and quarantine on imported goods needs to take place. Releasing the place of origin should be strengthened to provide the public with rights to know on any possible caution they might come in contact with.

One of the biggest problems that exist for the Korean government is that they do not have future livestock policies. Massive amount of US beef is expected to be released in the domestic market resulting damage in the Korean industry. Decrease of pork consumption also can be affecting the hog-farms industry. In other words, the Korean livestock policy has been ironic. After the beef agreement, the Korean's report on compensation policies seems as to temporarily compensate policy in the short run rather than a long-term policy.

The industry that can survive in the long-run should be settled and lead the leftover labor and resources to other industry for reinvestment. Presently, we do not need to argue about the inevitable agreement that has been settled. It is time for us to worry about rationally proceeding and performing the settled agreement.

 

Translated by Song Jae-yoon

This contribution may have a different standpoint from The Hanyang Journal's.

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