Korea reopened its market to U.S. beef last year and sales have been improving. Imports were initially restricted to beef from animals less than 30 months old; imports of from animals over 30 months were to be allowed when public attitudes improved enough to make it possible. When will Washington seek access for the older animals: Age issue next likely challenge for U.S. beef imports. After the current Korea-Canada beef controversy is over?
In 2003 the U.S. was the largest beef exporter in the world. In 2004, after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in a Washington State dairy cow of Canadian origin in late 2003, she wasn't. Here's what happened:
Troy Stangarone of Washington's Korea Economic Institute provides a nice overview of the beef agreement in the July Korea Insight: Fourth of July BBQ or More Fireworks in Seoul? He also looks at some of the other impacts of the protests.
Evan Ramstad and Sungha Park explore deeper issues underlying the Korean beef protests: South Korean Protests Show
Depth of Anger, Challenge President (Wall Street Journal, July 3). They argue that, although ostensibly about beef, the demonstrations reflected deep popular frustration with rising income inequality and poverty, and competitive pressures in the labor market, and competitive foreign pressure in agricultural markets:
"Democratization has been a disappointment," says Yoon Geum-soon, who runs a small fruit farm and is active in a women's rights group staging protests. "All the wealth goes to a few people, while others work hard for too little."
When she joined a similar protest movement that brought democracy to South Korea in 1987, the 48-year-old Mrs. Yoon says she expected that not only would the public elect its own government but also that all Koreans would get wealthier together. Instead, her business is failing as cheaper imported fruit reduces prices, and she fears she won't be able to send her teenage twins to college next year....
Mrs. Yoon, the farmer, is annoyed that things are still so tough for her children. When South Korea joined the World Trade Organization and opened its fruit market in January 1995, the government lent Mrs. Yoon 15 million won (about $15,000) at a 3% interest rate, and her family built greenhouses that year.
But she says that imported oranges from California proved to be too much competition for her Korean yellow melons. Then, energy prices rose and forced her to shut the greenhouses in 1996. Despite 14-hour working days, she was left with debts that she's coping with today.
"My twins are now in the third grade of high school," she says, which means they face college-entrance exams in November. "If they don't get into college, it's a worry for their future. But if they do, that's a worry too, as I have no idea how I would be able to pay the tuition."
On Friday the 13th the Korean Trade Minister, Kim Jong-Hoon, arrived in Washington for negotiations with Susan Schwab, the US Trade Representative. The initial negotiations took place on Friday and Saturday. Twice Kim threatened to walkout and return to Korea. However, the negotiations stretched out for almost a week, finally ending on the 19th. Here's a combination of a profile of Kim with a discussion of the negotiations: Man of Adroit Brinkmanship (Jane Han, The Korea Times, June 22)
President Lee has faced more perils than Pauline in recent weeks. The photo was taken in happier days, well before the beef agreement. This week he had to work through a cabinet restructuring, negotiations with Washington, the biggest in the string of beef demonstrations, and a truckers' strike.
The latest issue of the Korea Economic Institute's Korea Insight has two short issues on the beef and FTA debates in Korea: (a) Troy Stangarone describes A Firestorm in Korea Over U.S. Beef, while James Lister and Stangarone provide an FTA Update. Short, readable, summaries of recent events. Some interesting points: