South Korea’s Reaction to Mad Cow ‘Political,’ Pinkston Says

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- Daniel Pinkston, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, comments on the South Korean government’s reaction to a case of mad cow disease confirmed in U.S. He spoke on the phone in Seoul today.

South Korea will take steps “soon” after the U.S. confirmed its first case of mad cow disease in six years, according to e-mailed statement from agriculture ministry.

Park Sang Ho, a ministry official, said earlier today the government will halt customs clearance of U.S. beef imports.

“It’s a political economy story. It’s not a public health story. It’s 98, 99 percent political economy story, and 1 or 2 percent public health and food-chain security story.

“Farmers and livestock ranchers in South Korea have political clout, political influence.

“Politically, it’s more acceptable to grant protection to them than to just give them income transfers, even though it’s more expensive to South Korea as a whole.

“Because of the political sensitivity and political influence of these rural voters, the government will look for any and every opportunity to grant them protection, and here’s another example of that.”

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