Police Plan to Prosecute Seoul Protest Organizers

FOLLOWING MASSIVE CANDLELIGHT VIGILS protesting the resumption of US beef imports, police in the South Korean capital say they are planning to crack down on demonstration organizers. Critics are calling the move an “arbitrary application of the law,” an argument further bolstered by the fact that protests so-far appear to have been entirely peaceful.

The Hankyoreh quoted a police official today who defended plans to prosecute organizers by saying : “The event was registered as a cultural event but it was in fact a political gathering overflowing with agitation and agitating slogans.” That’s some shifty legal ground for the government to be walking on — just a few steps away from the blunt politics of the 80s, when demonstrators who voiced their opposition were harshly silenced.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials are detailing new guidelines for beef imports, which will allow bone-in cuts and intestines; both were previously barred. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says it plans to send four special investigation teams to inspect meat processing facilities in the US, and is promising strict screening in an attempt to cool public health concerns.

But despite taking careful measures to prevent instances of mad cow disease, what appears to be left unaddressed is how the government will control prices to protect South Korean farmers — an increased supply of cheap meat from the US is sure to put them in a pinch. If president Lee Myung-bak is truly interested in reviving the local economy, his policies should take a holistic and sustainable approach, instead of solely weighing the interests of his conservative counterparts in Washington.

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