For a little context, South Korean President Lee, as part of a larger trade deal with the United States, agreed to lift the ban on U.S. beef imports, which was placed five years ago when a cow (yes, one cow) with mad-cow disease was discovered in Washington (this one mad-cow was Canadian import). But the powerful Korean domestic beef lobby waged a fear-mongering campaign in order to maintain the ban. It was highly effective, reminiscent of the 2002 Korean Presidential elections where the liberal candidate, Roh, surged ahead of the conservative candidate, last minute, on an anti-American platform after an American tank inadvertently ran over two Korean girls near a U.S. military base in Korea. Here, again, the young generation of Koreans, mostly in their 20s and 30s, impulsive, fickle, and in reaction to the demagogic anti-U.S. campaign, began holding protests en masse everyday against the trade deal, and, alternatively, demanding stricter food safety regulations. (Check out every picture you can find of the protests and you'll see that they're all young people). I personally thought the protests were reationary and laughable, particularly given that it was in reaction to ONE cow. But I asked my friend what she thought about the issue and the daily protests. My friend is a 28 year old female and works in the jewelry design industry in Korea. She had this to say.
"난 우리나라 사람들의 소문제에 대해 시위하는거반대에 백만표! 정말 다들 미쳤다고 생각해! 내가 학원이 광화문이라 매주 학원가면서 시위하는 사람들을 봤는데 정말로 할일없는 사람들의 놀이거리. 남일 참견하고 말많은 사람들의 놀잇감 한총련의 놀잇감 권력있는 사람들의 장난이라고 생각해! 정말 생각이 있고 자기 의견이 뚜렷한 사람들이라면 뭐라고 안하겠지만 그곳에 나온 사람들의 대부분은 그렇치 않타는것도 기분나쁘지만 모르고 먹으면 약이고 알고 먹으면 독약이라고 솔직히 자기네들이 여태껏 먹어와놓고 이슈화되고 알고나니깐 먹으면 죽는 독약취급을 한다는거 자체가 너무 웃기다고 생각해! 여태껏 입이 즐겁고 배가 행복해지게 먹고 즐겨놓고선 이제와선 그게 가장 안좋은거고 절대론 먹어서는 안된다는게 말이되냐고!! 먹으면 죽는다고 하는 미국소. 그렇게 따지면 지금 다 죽었어야 하는거 아냐? 안먹어도 죽고 먹어도 죽는거라면 왜 그렇게들 하면서 먹어야 하는지 모르겠어... 얼마전에 미국소 들여왔잖아.. 그전까지는 그렇게 말많고 탈많턴 사람들 지금은 한마디도 없잖아... 싫으면 안먹으면 되고 먹고 싶으면 먹으면 되는거잖아.. 어차피 자기네들도 다 먹을꺼면서 왜 그렇게 한심한 짓들을 하는지.. 내가 봐도 그 사람들이 참으로 한심하고 광화문에서 외국사람들과 마주치면 창피한데 넌 오죽하겠지.."
"I'm completely against all this protesting. I think they're all crazy! I pass by them every time I go to work, and, I think to myself, don't these people work? Don't they have better things to do? Don't they have a life? I don't feel that these protesters are sincere. They just do it because they can, because it's the cool thing to do, because it's what they're privileged friends do, not because they really believe in the cause. And as far as the issue is concerned, I think it's laughable that it's such a big issue. It's a non-issue for me. I mean, all this fear about mad-cow, it's completely irrational! We've been eating U.S. beef for many many years and not one, not one Korean has gotten ill from eating U.S. beef. There's never been one instance, at least from what I know, where mad-cow tainted U.S. beef was discovered in Korea. Plus, it's really simple. If you don't want to eat U.S. beef, don't buy it, don't eat it! It's not as if Korean beef is somehow going to disappear from the market. And it's interesting how easily and quickly everyone just settled down in anticipation of the Olympics. The population seems to have ADHD - they can't maintain interest in one issue for too long."