Agribusiness Freedom Foundation  
Home arrow Sentinel e-Newsletter arrow December 2008 arrow Good News from South Korea
Main Menu
About AFF
Latest Op/Ed Release
Sentinel e-Newsletter
Newsletter Signup
Staff Bios
Make A Contribution
Contact Us
Good News from South Korea PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Friday, 19 December 2008
AFF Sentinel Vol.5#50

There is some good news. In contrast to upheaval on the Canadian front, South Korea is showing promising signs after a very surreal scene for much of 2008.

Three major discount retailers have begun carrying U.S. beef again, with encouraging early tonnage figures. In addition, two prominent women's magazines ran huge positive stories about American beef in December issues, leading up to the major lunar late January holidays that usually boost Korean beef demand.

After the unprecedented demonstrations and riots protesting American beef earlier this year, the turnaround is significant. Part of the attitude change might be some citizens realizing the demonstrations had little to do with U.S. beef safety and much to do with Korean politics. Many people did not realize until late that major confederations of trade unions were instigating and financing demonstrations in opposition to the Korean president's reform measures.

The Korean Times reported police recently arrested the Confederation of Trade Unions head for organizing three "illegal" demonstrations against U.S. beef imports and other violent rallies. That group and the other large Korean labor umbrella group, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, protested that arrest, one of five labor leaders on the police's wanted list. The Times noted that labor unions and the Korean government have "been at odds."

We had thought it odd last spring when major unions at Kia and Hyundai were scheduling votes about joining the protests against one of their key global customers - America.

The initial U.S. beef imported this summer was carried only by small Korean butcher shops and neighborhood restaurants. Their success, the lack of protests, strenuous scientific safety fact education by USMEF and financial strains in South Korea have changed everything. So three major retailers, totaling nearly 300 stores, began carrying U.S. beef. Their big launches began on Thanksgiving, netting over 800,000 lbs. total for the week.

USMEF's Korean Director, Jihae Yang, confirmed that the three big retailers were seeing very good results and, seeing those results, now some local retail chains are starting to carry U.S. beef. The slowing economy means some Korean shoppers are happy to have less expensive U.S. beef available.

During the years the Korean market was closed, USMEF educated reporters regarding food safety science and U.S. food safety protocols. This led to breakthroughs: the 50,000-circulation Woman Chosun magazine's 33-page full color article on U.S. beef and a 12-page article in the 80,000-circulation Woman Sense. The former article included cattle feeding, processing and inspection information plus recipes for eight different cuts. The latter featured U.S. restaurant menus and noted that Americans do eat U.S. beef, refuting false summer rumors that Americans did not eat U.S. beef, USMEF said.

The Washington Post Foreign Service noted the U.S. beef brisk early sales. It noted signs in one chain's store explaining why U.S. beef is safe, nutritious and delicious. Some shoppers asked the butchers if the beef was really safe, while others just grabbed U.S. beef and moved on, reporter Blaine Harden said ("South Koreans Have New Regard for U.S. Beef," 12/10/08). Harden said one 40-year-old mother explained she was happy to be able to buy U.S. beef again but would tell her two teenagers the U.S. beef she purchased was Australian. The teenagers had been convinced by protestors that American beef would give them BSE.

At least one news report claimed U.S. beef sales have sagged but sources said the data contradicts that. Rather, it is anti-U.S. sentiment common from some media outlets.

Other media outlets hold different opinions. Harden reported the JoongAng Daily, a major Korean newspaper, had editorialized that the whole hysterical American beef episode had tarnished South Korea's international image. The protests "showed that many people in this country lack scientific common sense and chose to believe scurrilous stories instead. Sensationalism and distortion snatched the ground from the feet of scientists and experts," the paper said.

We would add that South Korea is not alone. There are other countries, including the U.S. - perhaps without quite the hysteria Koreans demonstrated -- that also lack scientific common sense and fall prey to sensationalist, unsupported activist claims. Both defensive and proactive efforts to inform consumers worldwide are critically important to the meat industry.

The recognition by major retailers that "there is no longer any reason for them not to carry price- competitive U.S. beef," as USMEF said, is a major step. Yang noted that the Korean won has depreciated by almost 50 percent recently, further highlighting U.S. beef's competitive pricing.

The signs are improving in South Korea.

Email your comments to the author


Last Updated ( Friday, 06 March 2009 )
Next >
designed by