usbeef.jpgThe U.S. beef ban over mad cow disease concerns may have been lifted in South Korea last month, but how does it look when even officials aren't willing to eat imported beef on TV?

When the free trade agreement (FTA) talks between South Korea and the U.S. were under way in 2006, Trade Minister Kim [Jong-hoon] ― who was the chief negotiator ― said he was willing to eat imported U.S. beef "as a citizen." But he declined to reply whether he would eat the beef on TV. Later, Kim expressed uneasiness about journalists' questions on food safety and test eating.

[Assistant U.S. Trade Representative] Wendy Cutler, who was the chief negotiator for the U.S., was also noncommittal on the eating of beef here.

When Korean netizens' demanded for her to eat the "bone-containing" U.S. beef at a warehouse of Incheon International Airport during her stay in Korea in March 2007, she just said, "I'll consider it."

Presidential spokesman Lee hinted that President Lee is not considering test eating of imported meat "in Seoul."

If it's just beef, and it's supposed to be safe beef, what's the big deal? The Korean government's official line is that the President has eaten U.S. beef when he visited George W. Bush during his visit last month, and this is the same beef that will be exported to Korea. The U.S. Department of Agriculture even held an emergency press conference for Korean correspondents in Washington in an attempt to quell fears over U.S. beef safety. Although most of it seems to be misleading information dispersed by both media and the Internet, we all know how fast panic can spread. Will officials surrender themselves to public demands? [via ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal]

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