We are experiencing our first small bout of anti-American sentiment here in Korea.

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.


  1. Brittany says:

    In May there was talk in Washington of lowering the percentage of cows test for “crazy cow”. This has to be what has spawned the worry of our eastern friends. I do not eat a lot of meat and could easily become a vegetarian. It certainly is not because I am scared to eat it but instead grossed out by cooking it. I am sorry to my beef cattle farming father šŸ˜¦


  2. giein says:

    I think … The pure hearts of the demonstrators are used by some minute people’s strategy. They may think that any different views are the right wing. The group urging people to demonstrate is liberal group. The purpose of them is on the other things rather than American beef. But the responsibility of government is big.


  3. Jimmy says:

    I definitely see both sides: There has been a major failure in regulation from the U.S. on beef monitoring/regulation (nothing like the good ol’ Jungle days though), however, even though this is disturbing it is a VERY small set of beef that has been “potentially harmful”In summary, I say just profit from the new demand and buy (NYSE: COW)No really, I’m being serious – it’s an actual ticker symbol.On a separate note, congrats on your first google page rank!


  4. Dan says:

    In Canada, we had a similar problem about 3-4 years ago, when the United States banned all beef imports from Canada, after 3 cows were tested to have “Mad Cow” disease. Considering the amount of cattle we send to USA for processing, it crippled our beef industry, which has still not totally recovered. Apparently Canada has much stricter levels of testing compared to America (I don’t know if this is true, but what the media said at the time), but it didn’t help.Cow farmers were almost giving their cows away, since they couldn’t afford to feed them anymore.On a side note – Somehow the prices for beef in our supermarkets stayed at the same rates, and slaughter/processing companies like Cargill raked in record profits as they bought low, and sold high since we still bought beef at the same levels.


  5. Summer says:

    Truthfully, I’m becoming a skeptic about eating food produced by any large corporation. While unavoidable, I try to buy as many things as I can locally, including beef. My local farmers are accountable to this community because they depend so much on our business, whereas many large companies cut corners without immediate repercussions. While the mad cow thing is probably overblown, I am personally careful the food I eat, so I don’t blame Koreans for being concerned.


  6. Zane says:

    How do you tell a country that they’re overreacting?I think possibly there’s an element of dissatisfaction with Lee Myeun-Bak which is feeding into this, and the issue is broader than the beef thing.Of course, I don’t eat beef so I’m not worried šŸ™‚Maybe they should import more NZ beef!


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