Not sure how the U.S. beef fiasco has been covered in U.S. newspapers (I haven’t seen much online) but here in Korea, it has been the root of city-wide, country-wide and restaurant-wide protests to stop U.S. beef from entering the country.
Why? Because of –as the kids say– “crazy cow.”
South Korea, once the third-largest importer of U.S. beef until a 2003 outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States, said it would start quarantine inspections of U.S. beef, a move that opens its market fully for the first time in four years.
Korean students, parents with toddlers in tow, and union members took to the streets on Saturday in a massive protest in Seoul against a government decision to resume imports of U.S. beef that they see as dangerous.
In downtown Gwangju, a large plastic cow (resembling its Chik-Fil-A counterpart) sat downtown with a large X painted over an American flag. Crowds of protesters surrounded it Friday and Saturday nights.
Local restaurants and the largest grocery chains have already told customers that they will not sell the U.S. beef, which is much cheaper for customers than Korean and Australian beef.
Under the deal to reopen its market, Seoul agreed with Washington to accept all cuts of beef from cattle of all ages, while other U.S. trading partners such as Japan still will not do so because of concerns over mad cow disease. (Apparently, older cows are more prone to the “crazy cow” disease. And Koreans eat more beef by-products, such as intestines, which is more susceptible to disease.)
Personally, I do not understand the level of fear in Korea, as I have eaten U.S. beef all my life and still stand to tell about it. I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation in the Korean media, causing widespread fear. As I have asked several Koreans to explain their fears, one Korean girl told me that the U.S. sends Korea different meat than what we eat there, which I was quick to doubt.
I would be interested in anyone else’s opinions out there in America or Korea as to what you think of this beef crisis.