Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Lee Dong-kwan on Monday apologized for a mistranslation of the U.S. Federal Register which, amid widespread panic over beef imports from the U.S., has been read in some quarters as deliberate muddying of waters. “We regret that we have caused unnecessary misunderstanding and concern,” Lee said after Seoul wrongly translated cattle feed rules in the bilateral beef deal as carried in the official gazette so they looked more stringent than they actually are.
In a briefing, the presidential spokesman said the translation was “apparently carried out without carefully checking the content of the bilateral beef deal, probably mixing up the latest U.S. government document with an earlier one” — a reference to a preliminary legislation notice issued by the U.S. government in October 2005. “The government and Cheong Wa Dae understand that the mistranslation was a mistake made at the working level and has nothing to do with the content of the bilateral beef deal or with the deal itself.”
The FDA BSE Feed Rule published in the April 25 Federal Register states, “The new rule prohibits the following in animal feed: all cattle over 30 months ‘neither inspected nor passed for human consumption’ unless: 1) the cattle are less than 30 months of age; or 2) the brains and spinal cords were effectively removed or excluded from animal feed use.”
But in a question-and-answer material on the safety of American beef released on May 2, the Korean government rendered this as, “The FDA’s enhanced cattle feed rule prohibits the use of parts of cattle up to 30 months of age as feed if they are not inspected.”
Three opposition parties, including the United Democratic Party, urged the government to halt the promulgation of the safety rules on American beef imports scheduled for Thursday and start bilateral negotiations all over again. They said the government made a “fatal mistake” in mistranslating the point.
UDP spokeswoman Cha Young said, “What is more dreadful than mad cow disease is the Lee Myung-bak administration’s incompetence. We must conduct a parliamentary audit of the government to find out whether the U.S. government deceived the Korean government concerning its cattle feed rules or the Korean government deceived its people.”
The three opposition parties agreed to file a petition with the Constitutional Court against the government on Tuesday, saying the beef negotiations infringed the people’s basic rights. They also agreed to ask the court to suspend the promulgation of the safety rules.
UDP vice floor leader Kim Jong-yull said, “The promulgation will be an expression of the government’s surrender of quarantine sovereignty. There is a grave need to suspend it, since the moment the promulgation is made, American beef will be distributed in large quantities in the country before its safety has been verified yet.”