Beef Protests in Seoul

So a few years ago a mad cow was found in the USA and Korea stopped importing U.S. beef. Since I have been here a new President, Lee Myung-bak, has been elected and he would like to make a free trade deal with America. America has said it will not ratify a deal with Korea until the country starts importing U.S. beef again.

And there has been a huge public outcry. It has been the top story on the English daily many times in the last couple weeks.

On Sunday I was headed to Seoul to meet up with a friend and got stuck when the Subway stopped for an hour-I found out later it was because of a large protest at City Hall. I heard later that a fellow Guri teacher wanted to get off at City Hall but he was not allowed.

Also many restaurants have refused to serve beef-even though American beef is not yet on the shelves as a gesture of solidarity with the citizens. It has caused huge problems for the new President, who is the former CEO of Hyundai who was elected because he promised economic reforms. He publicly promised to give all major business leaders his personal cell phone number and this free trade deal is very important.

At the same time, Korean ideas of sovereignty and nationalism are strong here, as a country with a long history of being ruled by outsiders so the President is trying to keep his own people happy. After Sunday, the government has said it will crackdown on illegal protests.

If you click on this BBC link you can see some dramatic photos:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/7421176.stm

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