Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beef Protests? um, okay...

Now that I finally have CNN on TV again* I'm back to my habit of keeping the news on while I'm at home.

While eating dinner CNN aired a report by Sohn Jie-ae, their Seoul Bureau Chief, which was about the beef protests going on here in Seoul.

I heard about this from a friend who teaches in a Korean high school here. He was telling me that teachers have been stirring up their students to go out and protest. Back home parents would be irate to have their kids being stirred into a frenzy like that. However, here, this has been very successful and you can read about it in more detail at Korea Beat.

This past Monday, I revisited my old route home from Ewha Womans University's back gate to my apartment. This route takes me through protest-central in Seoul. It's protest-central because it's in the Gwanghwamun area of the city which has the US Embassy, many government offices, Seoul City Hall and it's near the Blue House which is the South Korean president's residence. When I passed through the area it was packed with riot police, so I knew something was up. I just didn't know it was over beef imports.

Sohn Jie-ae reported that Korean students here are protesting because some believe that their family and friends will "die eating US beef."

The pending resumption of U.S. beef imports hasn't been without political costs for President Lee Myung-bak. He apologized to the nation last week for failing to fully understand concerns about mad cow disease.

In downtown Seoul, thousands of people have regularly staged protests, chanting "We don't want crazy cows," since the deal to revive beef imports was announced.
In addition, Sohn's report as mentioned that instead of serving ox intestines these days restaurants here are serving pig intestines instead.**

I just think it's interesting because it's a topic I got to study my last term at Ewha's GSIS. I won't get into the details of it, but it's interesting to see it played out as both governments take steps to try to get closer to implementing free trade agreement negotiated between South Korea and the US last year.

More links:
S. Korea leader 'baffled' by mad cow fears
Hundreds in Seoul protest U.S. beef

*My cable provider, Yongsan Cable,. switched to digital cable a few weeks ago. However, I've not been home a lot lately, so getting the new digital cable box has been impossible until they happened to catch me at home this past Saturday afternoon (yeah!!!)

**Now you might be grossed out by that, but Soul food and southern cuisine has chitterlings, which is cooked intestines, so it doesn't freak me out at all. So, it's interesting and both funny to be that there is a Korean variation of Soul food here in Seoul ;)

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