A good piece on the Asia Times site today explaining why so many South Koreans are against the Korean-US FTA that has been under negotiation since March of last year (I’ve posted on the protests here before and Jamie has also covered this very well). The focus here is on the US desire to get their beef back on everyone’s dinner plates (or perhaps more accurately their kalbi broilers), and the reluctance of the Korean public to submit themselves as the experimental subjects of US industrial agriculture:
Beef has been central to Korean disdain for the FTA. The issue here has been less about protecting Korean cattle ranchers than preserving public-health regulations and the democratic rights of South Korean citizens. South Korea, like Japan, banned US beef three years ago after an outbreak of mad-cow disease in the United States. To reopen the South Korean market to US beef, Washington made lifting the ban a precondition to even beginning trade talks. Seoul conceded, allowing boneless meat imports. Since that time, however, it has returned three beef shipments containing bone fragments. The US beef industry, backed by influential members of Congress, reacted by demanding that South Korea’s market be fully reopened before talks end.
On a related note, I caught the second half of a programme on BBC4 the other night which was looking into the eating of dog meat in Korea. From what I saw it did not resort to the usual angle of “look at these funny/exotic/barbaric people and their strange ways” and looked at the subject from a few different angles: the mistreatment of dogs, the attitude of dog farmers, dog meat consumers and Korean dog lovers. Interestingly, in one scene the presenter visited a Korean cattle farm which was used as an illustration of the fact that cows are well treated in Korea, presumably unlike dogs. The presenter ended up refusing to eat dog meat himself, but arguing that the dog trade should be fully legalised and regulated so as to ensure that dogs are humanely treated. (Some pics here.)
One bad thing about this programme though is that it won’t do anything at all to dispel the immediate connection that most British people seem to make between Korea and dog eating - can we not please have something about Korea on UK TV that does not involve either North Korea or dog eating?