The Korean media is finally coming around to agreeing with me. Because, you know, they always turn to me for their talking points.

My point throughout this whole “scandal” has not been that American beef is totally safe. It has been that it is not much different than Korean beef and is possibly safer. In America, we at least have some government enforcement (though it should be tougher), independent groups monitoring and criticizing the industry, and a litigious culture that lets citizens enforce rules that industry and government won’t enforce themselves.

I have had a hard time believe that in Korea–where traffic laws are merely suggestions, police take three days to file a rape report if they don’t ignore it altogether, businesses frequently cheat on their taxes and their employees’ paychecks, and cutting corners while being as underhanded as possible is considered normal business practices–that somehow the Korean beef industry was pure and against the grain of the rest of Korean business and law abiding attitudes.

The Chosun Ilbo has reported that KBS produced a news program called “News Issue Ssam,” where they brought up questionable practices in the Korean beef industry, which include the following:

  • A sick cow being sold on the black market and being let to a slaughterhouse (wondering if there is such a thing as a beef black market in America)
  • Cattle farmers had been importing feed with meat and bones until 2004, which means some cows have definitely been at risk for developing mad cow disease in Korea–unless the farmers were just buying the feed for academic purposes

Some other notes:

  • Korea is not in the World Organization of Animal Health regarding the safety from mad cow disease. It hasn’t even bothered to apply.
  • Only one person out of the global population (6.7 billion) has contracted Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the past two years, and that was in Great Britain. You have a bigger chance of being struck by lightning five times while being attacked by a shark with a winning lottery ticket.

This goes back to my original thesis. This anti-U.S. beef protests are little more than the classic xenophobia that has ingrained itself in Korea since the days it was called “The Hermit Kingdom.” Just check out the comment section on my last post on the subject.

Update and clarification: The line I have heard most common from Koreans I know is that people are angry at their government for negotiating poorly and have lax standards. Yet the specter of anti-Americanism was a convenient tool to get people to the streets.

The Agricultural Ministry is trying to backtrack and clarify at the same time. It did, in fact, negotiate to take beef from the U.S. that were below the standards used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Organization of Animal Health, or OIE. Basically the difference is that South Korea okayed the import of small intestines (gobchang, baby) and only prohibited the last few inches of the poop tube. The OIE prohibits all parts of the intestine.

There’s more, so read the article above and see if you can make more sense of it.

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