People's Health Must Take Precedence Over Trade Interests China's import ban on Korean-made kimchi and other food products Monday smacks of trade retaliation for similar moves by Korea. Beijing has just as much right to take steps to ensure its food safety as Seoul does, but the abrupt action has left some questions unanswered. Still this does not free the Korean government from responsibility for its loose administration and bungling diplomacy. Most importantly, both governments should know this is about public health, not trade gains. Beijing first needs to send data on its quarantine inspection of parasite larvae-infested Korean foods to Seoul for scrutiny. The Korean kimchi makers cited by Beijing say they have made no shipments to China since July. As the Koreans use chemical fertilizers instead of the human excrement used by their Chinese counterparts, there is little possibility of parasite infection in Korean vegetables. And the larvae cannot survive the heating process used in making red pepper pastes and beef seasonings. From all appearances, the inspected samples could have been bogus Korean brands, or products made of Chinese vegetables or organically grown "well-being" cabbages. In the latter case, one cannot completely rule out the possibility of parasite eggs in some foods. What concerns the industry is the potential damage to exports to Japan, which buys more than 90 percent of Korean-made kimchi. Seoul ought to conduct its own sanitary checks of the 10 food brands quickly to investigate the Chinese claims. The kimchi feud is unlikely to develop into a full-blown trade war, and it should not. This is not just because the amount involved is relatively small in total trade volumes but because it is an issue of basic public welfare, not money. Similarly, Seoul needs to seek Beijing's cooperation in verifying the safety of staple foods, including rice and fish imported from China. If the two governments fail to agree, the World Trade Organization could be their final judge. However, both Seoul and Beijing should remain calm and make joint efforts to enhance the administration of their peoples' basic welfare. A good example is the latest bilateral agreement that calls for Chinese exporters of live fish to Korea to attach Beijing's sanitary certificates. Both governments ought to toughen punishment of those profiteering at the expense of people's health, by banishing these unethical firms from the industry for good. The winners of this turmoil should in the end be consumers. Aside from the appropriateness of the Chinese move, the domestic food manufacturers should use this trade row as an opportunity to reconfirm their corporate resolution. They have no place to hide when the nation's three major culinary items in global markets are called into question either over quality or sanitation.
Last Minute Checks Ensure Successful Meet The countdown will begin tomorrow for the biggest political and economic event ever to be held in Pusan. About 10,000 government and business leaders from 21 countries will gather in Korea's second largest city on Nov. 18 and 19 to further liberalize trade and enhance security. This year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is attracting special attention, as it overlaps with the six-nation talks to diffuse Pyongyang's nuclear threat. The two events should bring about changes to the two Koreas. As the 21 top leaders will confirm, the Korean Peninsula is the last vestige of the Cold War. The coming event is a good opportunity to discuss turning this remnant into a springboard for peace and co-prosperity. North Korea should therefore attend it as a special guest. We hope the six countries attain substantive progress in the nuclear talks to make the Pusan (or Busan) APEC summit an Asian version of the "Malta conference" in 1989, at which the United States and Soviet Union declared an end to the Cold War. Economically, playing host to the annual summit will bring Korea about $30 million in additional tourism revenue plus $84 billion in foreign direct investment. The host city, Korea's largest port, also can take several steps towards its goal of becoming a regional logistics hub. As the name of the regional forum signifies, however, participants are likely to share bigger benefits by resolving to reduce corruption and opening markets, such as by unifying regional rules for free trade accords. Koreans, and Pusan citizens in particular, will suffer various inconveniences, from traffic problems to delayed yearly state exams for college entrance. More serious, however, are the pent-up complaints of isolated groups like farmers and the urban poor, side-effects of economic globalization. The police have decided to prevent any protest near conference sites, blocking the entry of nearly 1,000 international activists and keeping a close watch on 400 others. We think peaceful and justified demonstrations should be allowed. The problem, however, is the possible infiltration by terrorists, either independently or disguised as protestors. In the wake of terrorist attacks in London and Bali, it has become clear that any country can be a target. Korea's dispatch of the third-largest military contingent to Iraq is an additional cause of concern. The organizers must do everything they can to prevent barbaric, inhumane acts of violence from occurring here. Most important for the successful hosting of the summit is the voluntary cooperation of the people, particularly in anti-terrorism efforts. The Korea Times, the only media outlet to publish an official newspaper for the APEC Summit 2005, has also activated a special team to better convey the efforts of the conference to promote regional peace and prosperity, both here and abroad. Kimchi War
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