The World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, deemed Korea a controlled risk country for mad cow disease Tuesday. This means Korea is considered to have the ability to prevent the outbreak of the disease through thorough supervision of animal feed and quarantine measures from cattle breeding to meat processes. The status upgrade will boost domestic consumption and exports of Korean beef.
The OIE has three classifications for a countrys ability to control mad cow disease after conducting sample studies and rigorous examinations based on massive documents and data submitted by member countries. Of 175 member countries, 13 have the OIE rating of negligible risk for the disease. Thirty-four countries have the status of controlled risk. The remaining 128 countries are classified as having undetermined risk for mad cow disease. This means the OIE does not know if their cattle develop mad cow disease, if the animals are being given suspicious feed, or if the countries have proper quarantine systems. The U.S. got controlled risk status in May 2007.
The previous Roh Moo-hyun administration of Korea promised to import American beef if the U.S. obtained the controlled risk status, but broke its promise. The incumbent Lee Myung-bak government decided to resume American beef imports in April 2008, a decision that triggered massive nationwide candlelight protests. The demonstrations were triggered by the MBC TV news magazine "PD Notebook," which exaggerated the dangers of American beef.
At the time, left-leaning forces emphasized the risks of American beef, whose risk level was lower than that of Korean beef. So-called experts also stoked fears over the meat. This caused thousands of people to take to the streets in May 2008, plunging the country into chaos for three months. Those who opposed the resumption of American beef imports claimed the Korean people had the right to pursue a healthy life, but ignored the OIEs recognition based on scientific study. Under the guise of protecting the peoples rights, anti-American beef proponents stirred up anti-American sentiment to launch protests against the government.
Last week, a joint civil and military investigation team conducted a scientific investigation into the cause of the Cheonan sinking and announced the results. Despite this, a groundless claim is floating that the naval corvette was stranded and collided with a U.S. naval vessel in an apparent bid to incite more anti-government and anti-American protests.