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A lack of expertise

Aug 22,2017
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is responsible for ensuring safety in the food that arrives on our table. It is responsible for filtering out harmful food and drugs so that people can have no doubts about what they consume.

But the scandal over pesticide-tainted eggs has utterly betrayed consumer confidence. The administration was lax and irresponsible in its supervisory role and sloppy in crisis management. Minister Ryu Young-jin was not even aware of the gravity of the situation when he addressed the issue to the press and lawmakers. He could not properly answer questions from lawmakers. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon bluntly told him not to address the press.

The three opposition parties are demanding Ryu’s resignation. Ryu, a pharmacist-turned lawmaker, was awarded with the office thanks to his contributions to Moon’s campaign. He acted as the Democratic Party’s special adviser for its Busan constituency. The choice of Ryu as the chief of food and drug safety has raised concerns at the time of recruitment.

DP members defended Ryu, claiming the controversy over eggs should be blamed on the past conservative governments. In fact, the problems are deep-rooted. The ministry has not carried out regular inspections even after it drew up guidelines on bifenthrin residue in eggs in 2004. The multi-stage labeling system also has been poorly administered over the past seven years.

However, regardless of who is directly responsible, Ryu raises serious questions about his eligibility in rebuilding consumer confidence in the food administration. His stumbles in responding to the crisis already demonstrated him as an unfit administrator. Public health is too valuable to tolerate any risk.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 14, Page 30