Go to contents

[Editorial] Innocent Citizens Victimized by Scare Stories

[Editorial] Innocent Citizens Victimized by Scare Stories

Posted May. 09, 2008 08:36,   


In the wake of circulating rumors about U.S. beef allegedly susceptible to mad cow disease, the consumption of Korean beef as well as imported beef has been declining. A Korean beef restaurant in downtown Seoul used to be bustled with diners on weekday evenings, but nowadays only a couple of tables are filled. The owner who said he was considering a change in his business type laid bare his concerns, saying, “If this trend remains unchanged, a number of restaurants specialized in Korean beef have no choice but to close their businesses." After watching gruesome TV programs featuring cows being slaughtered, an increasing number of people said they have lost appetite for beef. Some housewives said they threw away beef bone soup kept in the refrigerator.

The harmful repercussions of the reduction in the number of beef customers at butcher shops and restaurants could reach beyond beef wholesalers and slaughterhouses to stockbreeding farms. Beef prices at the places of origin plunged further in the aftermath of the ungrounded Web scare stories, making it hard for farmers to trade cattle. This is the devastating results of irresponsible behaviors that spread false rumors and inaccurate information via online and the media. The biggest victims of the U.S. beef-driven woes are our neighbors such as self-employed business people and farms raising Korean cattle, of which the incendiary protesters raised their voice for protection.

Out of the total number of employees nationwide, the ratio of self-employed businesses accounted for 26.5 percent as of 2006, about 10 percent higher than that of the advanced nations. The rise in the number of independent enterprises is the sad reality created by the financial crisis in the late 1990s. This is because a host of men in their middle ages jumped to create their own businesses after they were laid off due to corporate restructuring. A significant portion of them resorted to the workforce of their family members to make ends meet. The down-to-bottom competition among them, however, brought about endless cessations of businesses.

The scare stories circulating online came amid rising fears of commodity inflation including flour, which inflicted suffering to customers and businesses alike. The small stores engaged in chicken-related businesses have suffered a double blow arising from the nationwide bird flu spread. The sales of chickens at large-scale retailers nosedived and restaurants specialized in poultry-related cuisine saw their customers reduce by a third.

In an attempt to allay public concerns over bird flu, President Lee Myung-bak had a boiled chicken soup for lunch at a diner in Cheong Wa Dae yesterday. But the more urgent thing he had to do is to stem negative public sentiments against beef and chicken consumption from spiraling out of control, thereby creating more frenzy in society. The government should no longer sit by idly, doing nothing when ordinary innocent citizens fall victim to the unfounded horror stories.