May 02, 2008 09:15
The impending resumption of imports of U.S. beef has spawned a proliferation of rumors on the Internet about the perils of mad cow disease, amplifying confusion and fears among consumers.
This was not helped by the airing of an edition of "PD Diary," the famous MBC current affairs program, on Tuesday, which claimed that 94 percent of Koreans have genes that make them more susceptible than Americans or Britons to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which is the human variant of mad cow disease, and this physical trait makes Koreans two to three times more likely than Americans or Britons to contract the disease.
A tepid and delayed response from the government is only fueling fears. The personal blog of President Lee Myung-bak, who promised that resuming import of U.S. beef will bring high-quality and low-priced beef to the table, has been virtually shut down by Internet users who bombarded it with messages protesting against the decision.
Even madly unscientific rumors like, "Jelly, cookies, a broiled dish of sliced rice pasta and pizza will cause mad cow disease," or, "Cosmetic products, sanitary napkins, and diapers are also risky because parts of cattle are used in production," exhorting consumers to hoard such items before the imports, are spreading on the Internet.
Regarding the genetic vulnerability of Koreans, for instance, an official at the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said this is completely unfounded. Some radical critics of the import of U.S. beef are taking this issue politically further still, organizing an online petition to impeach the president. As of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, 418,000 people have signed the petition on Daum, one of the largest Internet portal sites in Korea. The drive aims at 10 million signatures.
A government official said the situation is baffling because the movement is beginning to take on an anti-American hue, just like the 2002 death of two schoolgirls under the wheels of a U.S. armored vehicle led to an anti-American wave swept the entire country.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com