Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quote of the day

The manager of a government sponsored hotline for foreign brides in Korea said:

"The South Korean public is illiterate in cultural diversity, so they have to catch up and learn as soon as they can," Kwon said.

I wonder if she actually said this in English as the Reuters article suggests by its use of quotations. If so, a bit of wisdom that needs to be heeded before it's too late. It emphasises something I have been saying since the very first day my daughter entered pre-school. Since the Korean Government is so hot to get Overseas Koreans to come over here and work for peanuts in the public school system perhaps they should get some to come over and spread the word in the form of diversity training for educators from pre-school. Cultural diversity education begins with teaching the children to recognize differences as normal rather than something to be pointed and stared at or avoided.

Costco to the rescue

All the threats, protests, boycotts, and general unrest aside, US Beef is coming to a Costco near you. An inside source Costco reports that they will begin selling begin selling choice US cuts as soon as they are made available. I couldn't get him to give me an idea of the cost savings as they "will be determined by market influences." That was to say if the leftist US Beef rebels and their ilk won't buy it, maybe the foreign communtiy can get a bargain on some of that meat that's been sitting in a Busan warehouse for the last seven months. Personally, I'm looking forward to a good old fashioned beef rib barbeque.

On a related note, a venerable professor emeritus with whom I chat from time to time would like to assure the foreign community that dispite all of the public protesting and hand wringing the "silent majority of Koreans" actually know that US Beef is fine and plan to purchace it when it is available. He would like us to know that it is the radical anti-American factions that are fueling the protests and the leftist 'hot' media are stoking the flames to make it appear more dire than it is. Assuming this is true, one of the questions that I have yet to see answered and one that could shine a light on the source of some of the madness is: Who is funding the production of all of those protest plackards and T-shirts for the protests? These things produced in large numbers are not an insignificant investment. Perhaps the answer to that question would help us to understand exactly who is the real driving force behind the protests. But, I digress.

See you at Costco!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Having 3 kids in Korea

Well, it has been official for some time now, but a third little bundle of joy is on the way in December. This one was not necessarily planned but is certainly welcome.
I understand that Korea is having a bit of a population crisis and is encouraging people to have more than two children through several incentives that vary from city to city for those who have a third (or more) child. Some of those I have heard of include cash stipends, free car seats and strollers, free garbage disposals, free highway toll fees in certain cities among a host of other things. Again, the bennies all depend on where you live and for those interested it is best to contact your local office (동사무서) as well as district and city offices (구,군,시) for specific information on what is available in your area.
For those living in Daegu, stay tuned here and I will try to keep you informed as I get the information. Since the baby is not due till December and planning for new incentives is still underway, I expect much to change between now and then.

Why US Beef is doomed in Korea

Because this is happening all over Korea right now:

It basically says, "We do not use any imported beef here."

So, being the obtusely inquisitive person that I am, I asked the director of the Pre-school, "Why did you put this sign up?"

"Because mother's are concerned about Mad Cow disease in imported beef."

"Duh," I thought rather than said and assured her that there is no logical reason to believe there is any problem with US Beef and I was unhappy with the choice to put up this sign.

This is in a pre-school that is part of a Early Childhood Education Department in an institution of higher learning! Basically, against all reason they are kowtowing to the wishes of a few mothers who are reacting to the media and lobbyist scaremongering telling them that US Beef is somehow dangerous. Instead of reducing the costs of providing meals for the children so that they can provide more educational value, they are paying (or in this case plan to continue paying) the exorbitant price of Korean beef (we can assume they are also not using Australian beef since the sign indicates 'imported' beef and not US beef by name) not to mention perpetuating the myth that US beef is somehow more dangerous than Korean beef. As Metropolitician points out a likely fact, more people have died of e-coli and such in Korean beef than of Mad Cow disease in the US. Someone with better Korean skills than I should call the KFDA and get those numbers and put them somewhere for all to see (anyone wanna race?).

Of course, it probably won't matter because, again as Metropolitician suggests (and something we all suspect), most Koreans view death or injury caused by foreigners as somehow more unacceptable than those caused by Koreans (for example, where traffic accidents are concerned) so the fact that Korean beef kills people wouldn't make the average Korean bat an eye but if (God forbid), a single person should ever die at the hands of US Beef whether from Mad Cow, E-coli, or just choking on one of those short ribs set to be imported, the media would go into a feeding frenzy and downtown Seoul would light up like World Cup 2002 all over again with protesters and candlelight vigils resulting in the banning of US Beef from Korean stores for the rest of time thus insuring the longevity of Hanwoo monopoly.

US Beef is doomed because the deck is stacked against it. The local Media, Lobbyists and Farmers, Politicians, Housewives and now even your local pre-school and restaurants are, against all possible logic, taking a stand against it. It has been made into a "national safety" and "Korean Pride" issue and those who would buy US Beef will be made to feel that they are somehow endangering those to whom they serve the beef.

I said it before and I will say it again that I would not be a bit surprised, after US Beef imports start, if some of the crackpots who oppose US Beef imports would actually somehow try to infect someone eating US Beef with Mad Cow disease or E-coli in order to perpetuate the myth and get rid of US Beef. After all, large amounts of money and national 'pride' are involved

What I really need is a 500 word essay in Korean about why it is illogical to hate Korean beef. This essay should supported by facts from reliable references from both Korea and abroad. I want to be able to just smile and hand it to any person (including my wife's family) who believes that US Beef is somehow inherently dangerous and should not be imported.