[The following was a presentation to the North American Elk Production Industry in July from a Korean delegate, attorney Peter Jung, from the DeRyook International Law Firm]
First of all, I would like to tender my heartfelt gratitude to the American Elk Products Board and the Michigan Deer and Elk Farmers Association for inviting me to Michigan.
On July 24th, I had the privilege of visiting the Michigan Department of Agriculture, MSU veterinarian school and an elk farm. I was really impressed by the advanced scientific management and quarantine systems.
But, unfortunately, North American velvet is currently banned from import in Korea. More specially, the Korean government suspended quarantine inspection for North American velvet. As you may very well know, that's because of CWD issues.
I guess one of the controversial questions that is presently in your mind would be when the Korean authorities will lift the ban on the product and what the prerequisite is to lift the ban on velvet.
On this issue, no one can give the exact answer because of the Korean government's complicated policy-making procedures and the limited research data on CWD.
As for you, you cannot just wait until the ban is lifted. Korea has no scientific data on CWD and the ban could last for a very, very long time. Therefore, I would like to share some ideas of mine, which I think are the most rational and the most efficient method of approach to lift the embargo of the product.
It might be useful information for you. I reviewed the related law and have had discussions with government authorities who are involved in this CWD issue.
First of all, let me explain to you the velvet import procedure in Korea and the background details for the ban on North American velvet.
To import and clear through all inspections, the importer should go through quarantine inspection by the National Veterinary Science Division, Customs Declaration, and the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) inspection.
Under the quarantine inspection, the Korean government checks restricted area to import. To pass this inspection, the inspector will conduct chemical tests and biological tests. If the tests are negative, then the inspector will issue the certificate.
At the moment, inspection on North American velvet is suspended so you cannot make a customs declaration and cannot get a certificate issued. This means that you cannot import North American velvet.
A "Customs Declaration" means inspectors check net weight, gross weight and impose duty. With a quarantine certificate, there are no problems.
Quality inspection includes visual tests, precision tests and harmful material tests. Among these, visual tests and precision tests have an important meaning for importers.
That's why judgment standards decide possible category of imported velvet. You can ask specific questions about visual tests and precision tests from KOMD later.
Visual inspection is when the Inspection Commissioner of Korea Pharmacopeia makes an actual visit to the storage house to check the time/day lapse of the product. The regulation set forth by the Korea Pharmacopeia on elk medicine products are as follows:
"The medicine consists of the main beam and the side tine. The length of main beam is 25-70 centimeters, and the width is over 12 centimeters. The length between the top of main beam and the first side tine is 10-25 centimeters and from the root of the main beam to the first side tine is less than 25 centimeters long. There are approximately 1-4 side tines and their tips are in a round shape. The outer color of the beam is yellowish brown with reddish yellow, light black or yellowish brown colored velvets. The amputated part of the horn consists of very little form of tissue.
In accordance to this regulation, if the main beam is longer than 70 centimeters or if the length between the first side tine and the main beam from the root exceeds 25 centimeters or if the length between the top of the main beam and the first side tine exceeds 25 centimeters when there are five side tines in total, such products shall be restricted from being imported in Korea."
The following are the Korea Pharmacopeia's regulating factors for the product.
- When the odor of the product does not meet the standard odor of the product
- When the artificial elements are detected in the product (such as the artificial color, metallic compound, etc. anything injected to increase the size or the weight)
- When the beam is from a premature elk
- When the beam is a re-grown version after the first amputated beam
- When the beam is damaged in part.
A more detailed inspection of the product is followed by the first inspection mentioned above. According to the regulations on the product set by the KFDA, the following conditions must be met:
a) Moisture: below 14%
b) Ash content (five centimeters above from the amputated part) below 35%.
In the past, the grade etc. of the product was made, but today they are not made.
Any proposed changes and modifications on Visual inspection and Detail inspection should be set aside for now and brought back when the CWD problem is resolved.
The product that has been approved in quarantine inspection, customhouse, quality inspection may be imported in Korea.
My investigation on the ban for North American velvet is as follows.
In Canada, CWD was found in elk animals in 2000. By international courtesy, Canadian government notified the Korean government that CWD broke out in Canada. Even though there is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans, and there is no case of transmission, the Korean Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) temporarily suspended quarantine inspection for North American velvet including Canadian velvet.
This ban was done to prevent any possible harmful factors and to secure safety. This ban is temporary. But it can last long unless CWD is proved to be safe and free from transmission to humans. The reason that Korea banned US velvet is that Canada elk animals came from US elk animals. In US, CWD is found only in wildlife elk animals. Even though CWD is not found in farmed elk animals, there is no clear boundary line between wild and farmed.
Korea cannot have conviction that US elk is safe from CWD, and as such, decided to ban US velvet.
Since the CWD issue is related to human health, political action is not effective to remove the ban. In my opinion, Korea, Canada, and US accept the ban as a general issue and approach the issue with scientific research together.
You should understand the Korean government status on the ban issue. Korean government unofficially said they would lift the ban on North American elk animals once CWD is proved not to be harmful to humans. At the moment, the Korean government does not have any scientific data on CWD. So if Korea starts research study now, it will probably take 3-5 years. At the same time, Korean government is not in the position to set up policy following after Canada and America.
The Korean government understands velvet is consumed differently in North America and in Korea. Also, Korea believes US and Canada have different ways of research. US and Canada can cooperate with Korea in studying CWD issues.
Another way to reduce the time the ban may last so long is that the Korean government trusts the North American inspection system. You should educate the Korean government authority for inspection, management, trace back system. In Korea, MAF is in charge of Administrative affairs and KFDA is in charge of research study. Inviting Korea MAF authority and KFDA research scientist to US will be a good way to educate the Korean government. One of our main concerns is when the ban is lifted and how it is lifted.
Also, contacting the Korean government through a representing attorney is a more efficient communication method than contacting directly. The reason for this is because all the documents being delivered to the Korean government is required to have the Korean translation version attached. The translation of the original document by a legal expert can be made with great precision to effectively convey the idea in the original text.
Also the materials delivered by the Korean government will be able to be examined and analyzed by legal experts in order to provide a high quality legal service. For a more effective communication and satisfying result, we believe that legal expertise is absolutely necessary.
As a reference, DeRyook International Law Firm consists of 30 attorneys and ranks within top 10 among the law firms in Korea. The representative attorney, Mr. Ham, Seung Hee, currently is a ruling party member of the Korean National Assembly. As the member of the National Assembly, Mr. Ham took part in submitting the bill at the Judicial Committee. DeRyook is currently under excellent terms with some major government organizations such as the KFDA and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. With the substantial amount of sources and social connections, DeRyook Law Firm has a comparative advantage over other law firms in Korea.
I hope that my presentation will be of some use in resolving the CWD case. I would like to conclude by wishing you the best in all your pursuit and endeavor.
Thank you. Peter Jung, Attorney At Law from DeRyook International law Firm