Eat My Brain

In May 2008, thousands of South Koreans took to the streets to protest the impending importation of U.S. beef. In a classic example of the social amplification of risk theory, citizens were apparently convinced that substandard beef was headed for South Korea and they would all develop mad cow disease.

Now, some citizens are fighting back.

JoonAng Daily reports that more than 1,000 Korean-Americans filed a group lawsuit against a Korean broadcaster yesterday, claiming its coverage of the supposed health risks of U.S. beef humiliated them and subjected them to mockery in the United States.

In April last year, Seoul-based MBC broadcast a report on U.S. beef warning that consumption of the meat may lead to the human form of mad cow disease. Following the airing of the “PD Diary” episode, tens of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets to protest a Seoul-Washington agreement that reopened the Korean beef market to U.S. products.

The protests continued for months, rattling the new Lee Myung-bak administration. …

“We demand that MBC and the chief producer of PD Diary pay for the psychological damage and broadcast a correction report and an apology,” said Lee Heon, legal representative of the group. …

Lee said the plaintiffs were insulted by PD Diary as its report insinuated that anyone who eats U.S. beef will contract the human form of mad cow disease. He also argued that because of the report, people living in Korea came to look down on overseas Koreans who have eaten U.S. beef for years.

And every time I hear of some frivolous story about mad cow disease – not the serious stories where innocent people die – I think of this 1995 song by Vancouver band, The Odds.