Low-priced U.S. beef has appeared in supermarkets here in recent days, after a decision by three major retailers to start selling it again, and the reaction has been brisk business and no political fuss. Fifty tons of U.S. beef disappeared from shelves the first day it was offered for sale.
"It is our national character to get upset easily and then to forget all about it," said Park Eun-ah, 48, a romance novelist who lives in Seoul and Paris.
Park was at the meat counter at E-Mart, a large supermarket, where he had just purchased a package of barbecue beef imported from the United States. Park noted with pleasure that it was much cheaper than beef from South Korea.
Although the hysteria over U.S. beef is gone, a bitter aftertaste remains. The JoongAng Daily, a major newspaper here, said in a recent editorial that the episode had tarnished South Korea's international image.
The protests "showed that many people in this country lack scientific commonsense and chose to believe scurrilous stories instead," the paper said. "Sensationalism and distortion snatched the ground from the feet of scientists and experts."
The article also revisits perhaps my favorite quotation from the whole of Mad Bull Shit, a quotation that also ran in the Post.
"I am afraid of American beef," Cha Yoon-min, 13, told The Washington Post in June after attending a protest with his mother, a lawyer. "I could study hard in school. I could get a good job, and then I could eat beef and just die."
And one more out-of-context excerpt:
Shin Mija, 40 was caught in the middle. She was happy to be able to buy U.S. beef again but said her two teenagers would not eat it. During the spring and summer, she said, her children had been convinced by protesters that American beef would give them mad cow disease.
Shin bought it anyhow. She said she would tell her kids it came from Australia.