Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Korean National Elitism and Beef? An Editorial

Editorials - A New Thing.

I think it's important to see Korea from the perspective of people here. However, I'm one of millions of people in this country and my perspective has always been unique. This has been the case even at home in more progressive than not California and it means that, more often than not, my perspective isn't a mainstream one.

I'm one to skip editorial sections which is probably the reason I was so late getting into blogging. However, today I made an exception. Well, not really, I clicked on a link which wasn't marked "editorial" and it ends up it was one. It was an issue that I'd studied this past term and decided to give it a read. I think I'm going to try to post some editorials from Korean papers just for some alternative strong voices. I know mine is strong. I also know that variety is a good thing.

This one is interesting because it's on the US beef issue which has been elevated to nationalistic heights here in Korea. That along with rice has been stirred up with nationalistic sentiments which essentially make Koreans who want less expensive food tantimount to tratiors. There is a slogan right now by Nong Hyub, National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF), that is something about being Korean means eating Korean grown or raised food. Hell, if that's the case then there are a lot of people who aren't whatever their ethnicities might be because with globalization, I know that I'm eating food produced from all over.

Basically, it's bullying which is actually quite common here in Korea. It's done under the guise of harmony or other notions and brought up when someone is doing something others don't like. However, slinging cow poo at people isn't harmonious, so it's just plain bullying now. When the average person has to work 14 hours to afford a kilogram of beef, maybe, just maybe the issue is more emotional than not.

Anyway, here is an editorial that was on the English version of the Chosun Ilbo's website.

Activists Show Contempt for Low-Income Consumers

Last Friday, the first day U.S. beef finally hit store shelves in Korea, the Korean Alliance Against KorUS FTA and members of other anti-FTA groups stormed into shops selling the products and held protests that included throwing cow dung to block sales. The protesters threatened to boycott shops selling American beef and forced managers to sign written promises they would not sell the U.S. beef. It was like watching an extortion racket.

As a result, seven out of the 53 stores owned by Lotte Mart, one of the first superstores to put U.S. beef on their shelves, ended up halting sales of U.S. beef. Some of them received complaints from customers who had come planning to buy American beef.

Despite all of the commotion, Lotte Mart saw sales of imported beef triple from Friday to Sunday. At Lotte Mart outlets where sales weren’t disrupted by protesters, all of the U.S. beef sold out, and even sales of Australian beef rose by 40 percent. That just shows how much consumers wanted affordable beef. American beef is half the price of Korean beef of the same grade and about 20 percent cheaper than Australian beef. Consumers simply ignored the shock tactics used by a handful of activists claiming U.S. beef was infected with mad cow disease.

Whether or not to buy U.S. beef is a choice that consumers should make for themselves. It is not a matter in which anti-FTA groups, with their own political agenda, should interfere. What have they ever done for low-income Korean consumers? Do they have the right to take away consumers’ rights to buy affordable beef? The actions of the anti-FTA groups are far more serious than a simple violent disruption of business. They reflect a lack of conscience. The protesters threw cow dung on the counters of butchers selling U.S. beef, but in the end, they were hurling excrement at low-income consumers who simply want more affordable beef.
I knew I was loyal to Lotte Mart for a reason. I'm glad they're selling US beef and that's not because I'm from the US. I actually don't like beef that much.

More links:

AsianOffBeat: Koreans Launch Anti-American Beef Campaign with Cow Dung
ROK Drop: Demand High in Korea for U.S. Beef
The Korea Herald: U.S. beef receives warm response at Lotte Mart
The Metropolitician: Hot Fuzz Sunday, Or Why Korean Protesters Get No Sympathy From Me

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