Published in Ewha Voice, March 2001
Despite the announcement made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on February 13 that domestic cows are safe from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopthy (BSE), otherwise known as the mad cow disease, students are still tentative about eating beef. Although there are few who have converted to being vegetarians, cautiousness concerning the fatal disease is prominent around Ewha.
One result of this fact is that the campus cafeteria makes very few dishes with beef. According to Kwak Ji-won, head nutritionist for the Shinsege Food System, which caters both the student cafeteria and the faculty cafeteria, feedback on beef menus is not very enthusiastic. “As we use Australian beef, we are sure there will be no problems, but students are not eating the beef dishes.” She adds that because of this, pork and fish make up most of the meat dishes and that the menus in the faculty cafeteria have become more vegetable-oriented. Even dairy products such as milk are declining in sales in the campus canteens.
Just outside campus, the sale of hamburgers has also considerably decreased. “Our main sales are pork bulgogi burgers and chicken burgers,” says Lim Suk-nam, manager of the Ewha-area branch of McDonalds. Burger King, famous for its Whopper and the slogan “Where’s the beef?” has introduced a chicken burger into its menu, and other fast food venues such as Lotteria are trying to shore up sales by cutting prices on “cow” burgers.
Of course, most of the beef that is distributed in Korea is supposedly from the U.S. or Australia and Korean cows are not known to be afflicted with the disease. However, even with no definite report on any traces of BSE in Korea and despite the efforts of President Kim and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF) to promote beef consumption, students seem to be either consciously or subconsciously avoiding beef.
Undoubtedly the media has direct influence on students’ reactions towards reports on BSE and its effects. Professor, Yang Yoon (Psychology) explains that when exposed to both positive and negative news, people have an inclination to respond more strongly to the latter. “Especially when it comes to basic human needs, one can build a shield against the truth,” he says.
This reasoning translates into very simple language for some. “I know the chances are low, but I just want to be on the safe side,” says Oh Bo-mi (Architecture, 3).