June 10, 2008

Candlelight Vigil in Washington, DC

Candlelight vigils in solidarity with the protests in South Korea have spread in the US -- in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, New York City, and Washington, DC. In Washington, DC, protesters gathered in front of the White House and marched to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and demanded the renegotiation of the US beef export agreement with Korea. Below is an open letter.

Open Letter to President George W. Bush

Dear President Bush,

When President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea visited Washington, DC in April, you two made an agreement to lift the ban in Korea on beef imports from the US. Did you anticipate the public reaction in Korea to that controversial agreement?

As you surely value the importance of US-Korea alliance, you obviously cannot ignore the recent events in South Korea. Daily candlelight protests have intensified and are now drawing one million participants. President Lee Myung-bak’s approval rating has dropped to less than 20 percent – the lowest for any sitting president in South Korea’s history. The new government -- only 100 days in operation -- is now in danger of collapsing due to the public pressure.

Is that a sign of a healthy alliance? Can you sacrifice the health and well-being of an allied nation and its citizens for the sake of paving a way for the US-Korea free trade agreement? Did you know that more than anything, Koreans are angry at the unilateral approach of Lee Myung-bak that bypasses public discourse and that this approach will backfire and undermine the very fabric of US-Korea alliance?

President Bush, it is not too late to consider renegotiating the beef agreement. Our demands are clear:

1) The US and Korean governments should renegotiate and formulate a new agreement that alleviates the concerns and suspicions of the citizens of both countries.

2) In order to pursue a healthy alliance, based on mutual trust of both nations’ citizens, we ask the US government to heed sincerely to the demands of Korean citizens.

Participants of the Washington, DC Candlelight Vigil for the Renegotiation of the Agreement on US Beef Export to Korea
June 9, 2008; Washington, DC

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