American Beef

Koreans Love the Idea of Conspiracy
The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed this out on a few occasions. Foreign exchange manipulation? Conspiracy. Unequal treatment of the rich and the poor in Korea? Conspiracy. You name it, Koreans gravitate towards the notion that there is some conspiracy afoot. There are some very justifiable reasons for this. Democracy is new in Korea, and even when established, Korean presidents Kim and Noh served jail terms due to accepting bribes. A great movie, Silmido (실미도) recounts a period of time when a group of convicts was trained to assassinate the North Korean leader during the Park administration. Acknowledgement of this event in Korean history had been largely denied. In short, many things have occurred, largely in secret, that have given everyday Koreans every right to suspect the worst.

Want to See a Frightened CEO of an American Corporation? Say “Class Action Lawsuit”
When there are many different victims which result from an American companies’ wrongdoing, then those victims can all join together and file one lawsuit, a class action lawsuit. Depending on the size and scope of that lawsuit, there can be both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory is to repay the victims for lost income, and/or some estimated calculation of the economic loss to the victim. Punitive damages are to punish the company for the wrongdoing, particularly if that wrongdoing is known and concealed. In extreme cases, the company can cease to exist as a result: the movie Erin Brockovich is a dramatization of a case in which a very large U.S. utility was basically brought to its knees by a single person representing a group of victims. When companies face action lawsuits, they had better be successful in defending themselves, or they can face extinction, or something pretty close. Ask Merck, the U.S. pharmaceutical, which faced a class action lawsuit regarding its drug, Vioxx.

Individual Rights is a Foreign Concept in Korea
The idea that individuals have even a puncher’s chance against large institutions is strange to most Koreans. Recently, an IT blogger had his critical review of the Galaxy 2 removed by Naver, at the request of Samsung Electronics. While strictly allowed, there are few class action lawsuits in Korea, even when it is found that banned substances exist in processed foods, etc. In addition, these types of cases receive little, if any attention. Shareholders’ rights, or perception of the power of the individual shareholder, is also foreign in Korea. The Seoul Gyopo Guide has suggested that the lack of shareholders’ rights, and the knowledge of this by working Koreans, has limited their interest and participation in the shares of their employers. In other words, the lack of faith in individual rights has dissuaded working Koreans from reaping some of the benefits of their employers’ success on the international stage. Instead, even upper-level executives at large chaebol prefer to have their in-kind compensation be in the form of funds in expense accounts (spend doing who-knows-what in places who-knows-where). Everyday Koreans are aware of these practices.

What Does This Have to Do With American Beef?