One of the most influential papers I ever read was in a 1988 issue of the journal, Risk Analysis, entitled, The Social Amplification of Risk: A Conceptual Framework, by Roger E. Kasperson, Ortwin Renn, Paul Slovic, Halina S. Brown, Jacque Emel, Robert Goble, Jeanne X. Kasperson and Samuel Ratick. Today the paper seems particularly prescient for the events going on today, 20 years later, in South Korea, where riot police were bracing for what could be the largest anti-government protest during weeks of rallies against an agreement to resume imports of U.S. beef.
About a dozen farmers in traditional funeral clothes marched Saturday on a downtown street on the way to the main protest site, carrying signs with anti-government slogans. They also carried the severed head of a cow (right).
South Korea agreed last month to reopen what was formerly the third-largest overseas market for U.S. beef. It had been shut for most of the past 4 1/2 years following the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in a Canadian-born cow in Washington state in 2003.
That deal, coupled with some sensational media reports, sparked fears of mad cow disease and triggered weeks of near-daily street protests calling for scrapping and renegotiating the agreement (left, protesters carry a sign symbolizing U.S. beef infected by mad cow disease, from Reuters).
The abstract from the Kasperson, et al., paper, is below.
One of the most perplexing problems in risk analysis is why some relatively minor risks or risk events, as assessed by technical experts, often elicit strong public concerns and result in substantial impacts upon society and economy. This article sets forth a conceptual framework that seeks to link systematically the technical assessment of risk with psychological, sociological, and cultural perspectives of risk perception and risk-related behavior. The main thesis is that hazards interact with psychological, social, institutional, and cultural processes in ways that may amplify or attenuate public responses to the risk or risk event. A structural description of the social amplification of risk is now possible. Amplification occurs at two stages: in the transfer of information about the risk, and in the response mechanisms of society. Signals about risk are processed by individual and social amplification stations, including the scientist who communicates the risk assessment, the news media, cultural groups, interpersonal networks, and others. Key steps of amplifications can be identified at each stage. The amplified risk leads to behavioral responses, which, in turn, result in secondary impacts. Models are presented that portray the elements and linkages in the proposed conceptual framework.
The Wall Street Journal reports that in South Korea, soup or stew made with the meat of dogs is called "sweet meat" or "healthy soup."
But dog meat has recently been linked to a spate of salmonella and staph infections, drawing the attention of authorities — and bringing a long-simmering cultural dispute to a boil.
Though dog meat is officially banned in Seoul, enforcement is lax. It is served by an unsupervised industry of small farmers, butchers and mom-and-pop restaurants.
In March, Seoul’s food-safety office tied some salmonella cases to dog meat. Concerned, officials proposed designating dogs as "livestock," which would subject the meat to rules on sanitation. While there’s no timetable for a final decision, the agency is now making a formal survey of handling methods at restaurants known to serve dog.
People in the dog-meat industry worry their costs will rise under new regulations, weakening demand and tightening the squeeze on a business that’s already got an image problem.
Outside the capital, there are no restrictions on dog meat. A large outdoor market in the suburb of Moran, 20 miles south of central Seoul, is one of the centers of the trade in South Korea. About a dozen butchers line a row at the market, with a shop that sells herbs and spices for the stew at the end. The smell of butane, used to fuel burners to remove fur from dog carcasses, hangs over the market. Some butchers also sell goat, goose and chicken.
The BBC reported last week that Nongshim, a leading Korean snack manufacturer, received information back in mid-February that a spin-off of its famous shrimp chips, Saewookkang, contained what was believed to be a mouse’s head. However, the company allegedly suppressed the matter until it became public.
A consumer in North Chungcheong Province reportedly bought a 400g Noraebang Saewookkang pack on Feb. 18. The buyer found a 16mm-long material with hair inside the pack and reported it to the company.
Nongshim imports the dough from its China factory in Qingdao and manufactures the snack’s final packs in Korea.
Nongshim took action like analyzing the foreign material discovered in the product. But the company hadn’t done much until the Korea Food and Drug Administration publicly reported the issue.
The public is now accusing the company of knowingly selling snacks made from the same contaminated dough for nearly a month and a growing number of consumers are boycotting the company’s products, dubbing Saewookkang not as shrimp chips, but as mouse`s head chips.
The Korea Times subsequently said in an editorial that all this can only happen in a country where businesses put corporate profits and images over consumers’ health and safety — and get away with it.