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Meeting Consumer Concerns for Food Safety in South Korea: The Importance of Food Safety and Ethics in a Globalizing Market

Abstract

As the issue of food safety became one of the important public agenda, consumer concern for food safety became the general public concern. The Korea U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) completion allowing import of U.S. beef to Korea has turned into a massive public uproar and a series of demonstrations, revealing widespread concerns on the part of Korean producers and consumers about government food safety regulations and mishandling of the beef trade requirement. The mishandling of public concerns for BSE on U.S. beef import by the administrators led to a breakdown of the relationship between the public and the government and a loss of consumer confidence in Korea’s food safety system. The KORUS FTA beef crisis raised the issues of government accountability and the importance of understanding moral and ethical aspects of food safety management that pose perceived risk for BSE by the Korean citizen. The aim of this paper is to address the importance of understanding consumer concerns, food ethics and of appropriate risk communication in dealing with politically and publically sensitive food safety issues. This is achieved by assessing the factors that contributed to the conflict between the Korean government and the Korean public over the KORUS FTA beef agreement.

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Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank the three anonymous reviewers who provided valuable suggestions for improving an earlier version of this paper. The research reported is funded by Hanyang University, and the author would like to thank Hanyang University for supporting her research project.

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Correspondence to Renee B. Kim.

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Kim, R.B. Meeting Consumer Concerns for Food Safety in South Korea: The Importance of Food Safety and Ethics in a Globalizing Market. J Agric Environ Ethics 22, 141–152 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-008-9130-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-008-9130-9

Keywords

  • Food safety
  • Risk management
  • KORUS FTA
  • Consumer trust
  • BSE concerns