S Korean president orders gov't reports on anti-U.S. beef protests

16:11, May 11, 2010      

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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday ordered official government reports on months-long candlelight vigils against the lift of ban on U.S. beef imports two years ago, arguing that such a large-scale social turmoil should be historically recorded, his office said.

"Two years have passed since the candlelight protests. Countless rumors have been proven not to be correct, but there's no single intellectual or medical expert who participated (in the protests) have shown regret. Without regret, there's no progress of the society," Lee was quoted by his office Cheong Wa Dae as telling a Cabinet meeting.

Following a controversial decision by the government in 2008 to resume U.S. beef imports, hundreds and thousands of people, including students in school uniforms and housewives with strollers, took to the street to protest what they saw as a hasty decision made without the public consent.

It was widely feared that U.S. beef from cattle older than 30 months might pose threats to public health, including a possibility of contracting mad cow disease, a degenerative brain disorder.

At the meeting, Lee ordered government branches including the foreign ministry and the farm ministry to write up an official report on the massive rallies, which greatly embarrassed his administration and caused a drop in his approval ratings. The ministries were involved in a sweeping free trade pact with the United States that included the beef deal.

"The government should look back on the past one to two years and make it a chance for social developments. The candlelight protests are a matter of a social responsibility rather than a legal one," Lee was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae.

Source: Xinhua
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