Thursday, May 8, 2008

Information Age Politics--Mad Cow Disease and Anti-Americanism

What do the following have in common?
  • A poll shows that 34 percent of first-year South Korean army cadets called the United States the main enemy of South Korea. While the majority ― or 34 percent ― picked the U.S., 33 percent said they regarded North Korea as the main enemy. Korea Times
  • An in-house poll for the governing party in early May found that President Lee's rating has slipped to less than 30 percent, down 10 percentage points from last week. "Beef Deal Pulls Down Lee's Ratings," Korea Times.
  • Education authorities yesterday instructed heads of schools nationwide to take steps to stop groundless rumors over the imports. This came in the wake of candlelight vigils in which an estimated 60 percent of the participants were middle-and high-school students.
  • Reportedly 660,000 people have signed a petition on the web to impeach President Lee Myung Bak.
  • Korean-American organizations in New York, Washington and Los Angeles held press conferences this week in an effort to calm the mad cow scare in Korea.
  • All sorts of rumors regarding mad cow disease are spreading by mobile phone text messaging and via the internet.

All of the above are manifestations of South Korean politics in the information age. The significance of the current political developments has less to do with the Korean government's decision to resume importing American beef, per se, than with other larger concerns and President Lee's recent visit to the U.S. Over and above the symbolism of candlelight vigils, there is a decidedly anti-American message to the current student protests, as one can easily see from visiting a website put up to help mobilize the protests.

1 comment:

  1. While I was looking for some articles written in foreign press about South Korea’s candle light vigils against importing US beef, I happened to visit your blog. However, I think you are absolutely missing a point. You think that recent protests are based on anti-American sentiment.

    However, I really don’t understand why you think Korean people’s outrage is because of anti-American sentiment. Koreans are upset about Lee Myung-bak administration and its officers who did not regard Korean people’s health at all in the process of negotiation to resume importing US beef. As well, there are other issues included such as privatizing national health insurance, grand canals construction project, etc, which are main issues and plans that Lee has pursued and many people are opposing.

    Possibly, there might be anti-American sentiment as the US pushed for South Korean government to accept all these garbage articles that they couldn’t get any other country endured. However, Koreans are not that stupid or emotional anymore. We are angry because Korean negotiators were like such pushovers and they didn’t seem to consider about Korean people’s life and health at all.

    The reason that Lee’s support rate has decreased is not because of anti-American sentiment but certainly because of his mislead policies including this beef import resumption, privatizing national health insurance, grand canals construction project, etc, as I mentioned above.

    You are offering a survey result about cadets to explain anti-American sentiment. It doesn’t seem very reasonable, either. As you already know, there is not like sincere ‘brotherhood’ or ‘alliance’, etc, in such a fiercely competitive world. In Korea, many people had kind of fantasy about the US as a savior in our hard times. However, we know that it was certainly because of strategic reasons, no more or less than that and we don’t need to be thankful for that. Moreover, now we know that the US army has always demanded us very unfair treaty and agreement. Probably that’s why the result came out as it is. We are still struggling to be completely independent when in comes to making a military-related decision because of old commanders. However, especially young people have got to know the truth and that’s why some of the cadets regard the US as enemy, which doesn’t seem to provide a proper foundation to explain anti-American sentiment in Korea.

    I hope you could have a chance to reflect your biased or wrong critical point of view from my message. There might be some awkward sentences or grammatical errors as I am not Korean-Amerian or native English speaker, but just an ordinary 26-year-old girl(?) who is seriously worried about me and my family’s future including other Koreans.