Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crazy Cow Explained

Korea has been embroiled for the last month in candlelight vigils all over the country. The primary reason for this is the President relaxing import initiatives to allow Korea to import American Beef again for the first time in about five years. The reason that so many people are angry is that the beef being shipped is largely considered beef not fit for Americans to eat; i.e. beef sent to Korea is shipped after the FDA acknowledge expiration date. The Korean people were more than a little pissed. In all they are not too pleased with the President elected by one of the biggest majorities in years. In fact, along with protesting the beef imports tens of thousands of Koreans were also calling for his resignation.

I can understand the concern over the import of beef considered not to be fit for Americans to eat. It does seem to be a cruel double standard. However I also live in South Korea where Koreans will buy food from the live animal market that has been killed on an open street with cars, motorbikes, and other animals going to and fro. I've also seen dogs and cat sold as meat here. So, really, the whole "Oh my god I could be eating American Beef" things seems kind of silly to me.

While the protests have been going on, even though the reason for the import is having it shipped after FDA expiration dates, the largest concern of the people seems to be Mad Cow disease. During each and every protest there has been something to do with Mad Cow. Koreans, being Koreans, call it Crazy Cow. Among the things I've heard in the different protests are that every American has Crazy Cow disease, that 500 cases of crazy cow have been reported in the US, that Americans won't eat beef because of Crazy cow disease, and my favorite, that only beef that is infected with Mad Cow disease is going to be sent to Korea. It's the height of ridiculous.

I was at a live music show the other night featuring a pretty fun and crazy Korean punk band. The band had two singers, one who spoke reasonable English. The show was great fun until one of the singers said that English teachers in Korea don't care about Korea, or English, and want everyone to get Crazy Cow. I was annoyed. The thing is the protests keep coming.

Because of the candle light vigils the President, in a face saving gesture, fired his entire cabinet. This placated the protests some, but didn't really end the protests. The difference being that two weeks ago 100,000 people turned out in Seoul to protest, where last weekend only 6,000 people turned out to protest. Still aside from firing the entire cabinet the President also asked for stricter labeling measures which will have any business that sells a beef product state clearly where the meat comes from. This will include fast food restaurants that previously were able to skirt the labeling measures.

For the last month I haven't been able to walk down the streets on a night without running into a huge candlelight vigil. The protests are composed of college students, older people, families with children. They sings songs and call for death to the Americans who would bring crazy cow to their country. I walk down the street and get the worst stares. The crowd holds their candles towards me as I walk. I smile and am amused. I don't have the heart to explain to them in the middle of their anger that I'm a vegetarian. The protest will continue again in force this weekend.


AZNaddict said...

I'm moving to Seoul next month, and the things you've mentioned are exactly what I'm a bit worried about. Also, let's trade links.

Saradevil said...

In all honesty, as long as you are not standing on the street next to a Demo eating a hamburger, you should be fine.