Beef Riots Erupt in South Korea


Apparently, Koreans have done a particularly good job of convincing themselves that American beef is teeming with mad cow disease, even though the cases reported here have been small and isolated. They could be right – there’s certainly a lack of adequate oversight here, so we could all be dead in ten years – but it’s unlikely. Either way, the South Korean government’s decision to reopen their markets to American beef has been met with gigantic protests.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators filled central Seoul to protest [the] agreement to resume suspended imports of American beef and to denounce a broad range of other government policies… Overhead, large balloons carried banners that read “Judgement day for Lee Myung Bak” and “Re-negotiate the beef deal.” One widely distributed leaflet said: “Mad cow drives our people mad!”

Of course, what they’re really protesting is a stagnant economy and high oil prices, but there aren’t as many catchy slogans for that. I’m just glad that we have a chance to talk about “beef riots” with a straight face.

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4 Responses to “Beef Riots Erupt in South Korea”

  1. “The current level of 1,000 tests each day represents about 1 percent of the 35 million cattle slaughtered annually in this country. Beginning around late August, the new level will be about 110 tests per day.”

    I don’t know, I’m pretty sure the government could find a more life-saving use of $52 million each year than finding a single mad cow every 36 months, especially given that you’re pretty unlikely to contract the disease from one eating. Going to 100% testing, which, even if you got massive economies of scale on it somehow, would have to cost like $33 million a week, seems beyond insane, and yet some people advocate it.

    Furthermore, one of the fundamental precepts of quality control is that 100% testing is not necessary to tell you whether some defect is a major problem. In fact, no specific proportion is; what actually matters is the absolute number of items/beasts tested, regardless of how many total are being produced. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that the non-tested beef population has a significantly different rate of mad cow than the tested population does, unless of course the beef industry is willfully trying to kill us all by somehow making sure that the mad cows aren’t the ones tested.

    I’d think it more likely that the South Koreans are protesting because of cultural purity and protectionist issues related to food production, though that’s an uninformed amateur’s opinion. I know, for instance, that Japan is very touchy about all their rice coming from within the country instead of Louisiana, even though we can provide it more cheaply.

  2. chomposaurus Says:

    Apparently, Paul

    a) made up the fact that I support 100% testing, which I don’t; I just linked to an article saying that testing here may or may not be adequate. You certainly could argue that it is adequate given the low risk.

    b) did not read the last paragraph of my post, where I explained that it was very unlikely mad cow was the real reason for the protest

    c) is a cattle rancher

  3. Sorry, I know you don’t support 100% testing. Some people in the article you linked do, and I should have been more clear that those were the insane people I was referring to. And I did read your last paragraph; in mine, I was offering another potential reason. Really, I didn’t intend to attack you so much as discuss the matter further, as I agree that we mostly agree. My bad for coming off like an ass, this time without meaning to.

  4. Paul, what you are missing is that for some companies, it’s *profitable* to do additional testing. (More money and more safety? Sign me up!)

    We can see that since the current Administration is actually trying to sue to *block* beef producers from doing additional testing on their own dime.
    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2008-05-09-mad-cow_N.htm

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