Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Real Identity of the Mad Cow

The People's Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease on Wednesday issued an ultimatum against the Lee Myung-bak administration, demanding the scrapping of the Korea-U.S. beef accord and the start of all-out renegotiations of the accord with the U.S. by June 20. "If the government decides to ignore the mandate from the people, who hold the sovereign power in this country, we will not hesitate to launch a campaign to drive President Lee Myung-bak out of office," it said in a statement. The association has been acting as if it has been leading the candlelight vigils.

Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea says the sovereign authority of the country lies in the public and all power comes from the people. But nowhere in our Constitution is there any reference to the People's Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease as representing the public. Yet that association used insolent language to say it is "ordering" the government and would not hesitate to launch a campaign to oust President Lee. Judging from such words, the association must think the participants of the candlelight vigils are its supporters and that it feels empowered beyond imagination. But if you ask the housewives, high school students and office workers who took part in the vigils if that association represents them, most would wave their hands in denial and question just what that group does. Yet this very group is going around shouting out demands as if they own the candles that were carried by the people and have been empowered to be their leader.

A search through the association's Internet homepage reveals that it was launched on May 6 following a proposal by the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and another civic group called the Korea Progressive Coalition. The coalition was created in September of last year after pro-North Korean groups such as Hanchongryun, the Solidarity for the Practice of the South-North Joint Declaration and other civic groups got together. The co-chairperson of the coalition, Oh Jong-ryeol, takes center stage during news conferences or rallies protesting against U.S. beef imports, acting as if he is the head of the People's Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease. A search through newspaper archives reveals that Oh had served as co-chair of a citizens' movement to close down a U.S. military bombing range in Maehyang-ri in 2001. He co-chaired another citizens' task force protesting the accidental killings of two Korean schoolgirls by a U.S. armored car in 2002, yet another citizens' task force seeking to nullify an impeachment motion against former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, an anti-APEC movement and a group opposed to the expansion of a U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek in 2005, and another movement opposed to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in 2006. He is a professional "co-chairperson." And it is obvious what types of groups he has co-chaired.

The people working at the association's briefing room are mostly affiliated with the PSPD or the Korea Progressive Coalition. A PSPD official heads the association's briefing room and he was the one who stood on the stage during a candlelight vigil on May 25 and shouted "Let's go to Cheong Wa Dae!" The person who created the song "Article 1 of the Constitution," a favorite at the candlelight vigils, was arrested during a spy crackdown back in 1992 for creating a song praising the late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.

The Korean citizens who came out to the candlelight vigils, with their children in strollers, out of genuine concern for the health of their families, will be surprised if they find out such people are acting as their representatives. Moreover, Koreans will be appalled to learn that these people are threatening to nullify the election that even they participated in six months ago within the framework of the Constitution. The members of the association should be held jointly responsible for the mismanagement of the country during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. They are the very people who took this country backwards and divided the people by siding with Roh shouting anti-American and pro-North Korean slogans. And these people, who had been chased away by the public, are now using the crisis facing the Lee administration and hiding behind the mad cow scare to agitate others and calling on them to storm the presidential compound. The public needs to see the true faces of these people who are hiding behind a mask.

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