Thursday, May 08, 2008

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.


Aaron said...

I've been trying to explain to Korean friends all week that market forces and consumer choice cover all the bases where US beef is concerned. If you don't want to eat US beef, don't buy it and don't patronize restaurants that use it. The government doesn't need to ban it, protesters need not rail against it, and lord knows we have better uses for our time than discussing it.

I have no problem whatsoever if a private business - for whatever asinine reason - chooses not to stock or sell imported beef, provided that the government has no role in restricting the importation or sale of that beef. Any beef that a private business uses will be necessarily cheaper, and the foreign beef will have done its job, so long as that foreign beef is available elsewhere and consumers have the choice to buy it.

But you're probably right: I, too, fear the government will find cause to keep American beef out of Korea

Fencerider said...

The pervasive fear however is that US beef will be used in everyday meals and cafeterias to save money...and of course, level heads prevailaing, it certainly will be.