Go to contents

“Prize Money Hunters” Going Too Far

Posted July. 11, 2005 03:20,   


“A customer filed a petition to Cheong Wa Dae as found an ear ring in a yogurt and claimed one billion won. As it didn’t work, he filed a lawsuit” (said dairy producer A).

“A customer insisted that he found a rice worm in an order of bibimbap and claimed 10 million won saying it’s the company’s fault. As we declined to pay, he threatened to put what he said on the Internet” (said food company B).

“Prize money hunters” are rampant these days, who claim money against companies or administering authorities saying they found bad food.

Since revising the Food Sanitation Act which, if enacted, would raise a prize from current 300,000 won at best to 10 million won which is given to a person who reports bad food, and which has been referred to public opinion late last year, these claims have rapidly increased.

The government as well as related companies has been troubled with these cases as there are a lot of absurdly exaggerated ones, while some of them turned out to be true.

Side-Effects of the Internet?-

Company A went through factory scrutiny because of a petition submitted on the homepage of the office of the President, which insisted “an earring was found in a yogurt.”

It came to the conclusion that there was no problem with the yogurt after civil servants examined ears of workers on production lines and didn’t even find any traces of their ears being pierced. However, the case didn’t end there; currently, a lawsuit is being progressed.

Development of the Internet, camera phone and digital camera plays a part in producing “prize money hunters.” On the Internet, an article titled “how to get paid” is openly circulating. Its seriousness has reached the level that food companies feel threatened.

Last August, a woman in her 30s living in Incheon made calls to eight food companies and claimed millions of won, insisting that “I got a stomach ache after eating your product and couldn’t take private piano lessons for three days.”

A person concerned at company A said that the number of prize money hunters has more than doubled compared to two to three years ago, and food companies make a black list of them and share it.

Authorities Also Troubled-

The administering authority is troubled as well, as they are the one giving the prize.

Recently, the Korean Food and Drug Administration analyzed patterns of bad food reports and found that just 1.5 percent of them fitted the intent of the Act.

Most of them were found to be cases of just harassing small-size businesses. There was lots of cases of a person taking a picture of a hair found at a restaurant and making a report, and cases of reporting a person who delivers food material to several restaurants with a small truck, on the grounds that he is not authorized to work.

The Korea Food and Drug Administration is adjusting its regulations on granting a prize for reporting bad food ahead of enacting the revised Food Sanitation Act starting July 28.

They are considering raising the amount of prize money significantly in cases of reporting a “conclusive fault,” such as that of using mad cow disease, and in cases of reporting “insignificant bad food,” lowering or eliminating the prize.

Jin-Suk Huh jameshuh@donga.com