The government asked for renegotiations over U.S. beef imports. President Lee Myung-bak said in a cabinet meeting that beef of cattle 30 months and older should not be imported because the people don't want it. It is understandable that the request is a political decision made because the administration was pushed into a corner.
The administration's support rate has plummeted and candlelight vigils put pressure on the government. As leadership failed to overcome the crisis, there was no option but renegotiations, as more than 80 percent of the people demanded it.
However, the request is extremely unusual and unprecedented to change your mind after an agreement was signed because of the people's protest.
Amid all this chaos, we are more concerned about the government's incompetence than the possibility of mad cow disease. The government kept making mistakes in negotiations, and its follow-up measures always came too late. One wonders how it is possible that the cabinet was purported to consist of the best possible officials.
When people complained about our quarantine regulations and specified risk materials, the government held additional negotiations and inserted letters from the United States in the minister's announcements, a sloppy response indeed. The administration has now broken its own principle that there won't be renegotiations. This is far from the pragmatism that the administration promised. The administration blindly followed popular sentiment.
A hundred days have passed since the Lee administration took office. If a similar confusion occurs, the remaining period of the term, four years and nine months, will be a bleak and miserable time. When he was sworn into office, the president promised to advance our country, pursue pragmatism and revive the economy. Even though he made the promises not long ago, this feels very distant now.
The president must respond as if starting anew. Sacrificing some people including the minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, won't be sufficient to calm public anger.
It would be much wiser and quicker to decide who will remain in the cabinet, instead of who will resign. In fact, few ministers have proved to be competent enough to stay.
The cabinet was ridiculed by the people from the beginning and thus there is no reason not to make a move. If all the cabinet members resign, presidential secretaries must be replaced as well.
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