27 November 2005

Koreans Freaked Over Foreign Food.

Koreans in South Korea, like anyone else, have anxieties. Some are common place. Crime and old age, for example. But, it is rare that a concern not on the list of the usual suspects becomes a near universal concern in a country. Right now, in South Korea, that fear is the fear of imported foods.

The figures come from a June survey of 33,000 households released on Friday by the National Statistical Office. . . .

Food safety was another major concern, with clear differences in degree between domestically produced and imported food. Some 50.1 percent said they thought domestically-cultivated agricultural products are contaminated with pesticide, but that already high percentage was dwarfed by the 87.8 percent who worried about imported products. Given that the survey was conducted before parasite eggs were found in Chinese kimchi, the figure is now probably even higher.

Some of this may be bird flu driven, given that South Korea is so close to the epicenter of the epidemic in China. Whatever the reason, it bears note and further examination.

A larger sample in the same survey also looked at attitudes towards the handicapped.

On the question regarding handicapped people, 89.1 percent of the respondents answered that they did not discriminate against the handicapped. However, 74.6 percent of the same pool answered that other people besides them discriminated against the handicapped.

A total of 71 percent of the handicapped that answered the survey said that society discriminated against them.

My own limited experiences with Korean culture indicate that this is a real problem. The sense that a disability is a source of shame, rather than a fact of life, is intense.

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