Mad Cow Disease Professor Likes US Beef, Mad as Hell About Controversy

The JoongAng Ilbo reports that Hallim University Medical School dean Kim Yong-seon, whose thesis claiming that Koreans were particularly at risk of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease sparked the whole US beef import uproar, has told friends that media reports have exaggerated his findings, and politicians are misusing them for political gain.

Hallim University Director Yun Dae-won, who is with Kim on business in Finland, told reporters that the professor was quite embarrassed by the mess. Yun said he was speaking for Kim because the latter felt if he did the talking, he’d become an even bigger victim and perhaps be unable to return to Korea.

Kim appeared with Yun during the interview.

Earlier, Kim’s secretary said his boss felt insulted because some of his thesis had been exaggerated by the press.

Yun said the real problem at the heart of the uproar against US beef was not the facts contained in Kim’s thesis, but rather that those facts were being politically manipulated. He said Koreans were currently not making a rational judgment.

He stressed that Kim’s thesis was very specialized, so even other scholars would have a tough time analyzing it haphazardly. He said it was very dangerous to interpret Kim’s findings arbitrarily. In particular, Yun expressed concern about focusing the discussing on US beef. He said this appeared to be political; the real problem was European beef. He noted that only three cows in the United States had been infected with Mad Cow disease, and all three were infected outside the United States.

Then the kicker — Yun said Kim has enjoyed and continues to enjoy eating US beef, both when he was researching Mad Cow Disease in the United States and now. Given this, Yun said, you could probably guess what the professor personally thought about US beef.

As to why Kim did not actively promote his findings, Yun said that since the controversy over US beef erupted, several angry people had visited his home and thrown animal shit at it.

Yun added that as a result of this mess, Kim has begun showing symptoms a nervous breakdown. The two plan to return to Korea after visiting another European university.

  • gbnhj

    This was on the first page of the Korean edition, above the fold, and was quite something to see. Yesterday’s JI had the Seoul outbreak of avian influenza in the same place, along with a great graphic detailing the locations of 25 AI outbreaks over the last two months.

    I hope that they continue to provide coverage of both stories until the message is clear: some folks here have simply been manipulated into thinking and acting as they have, for reasons that have nothing to do with health.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Sure, people have been manipulated. That is the absolute certainty concerning mad cow and US beef. I really don’t think the risk is great, I for one won’t lose any sleep over it. But, I think all cows should be tested, both Korean and American…but nobody wants to go down that road because consumers would then begin demanding that the meat be tested for fecal matter…and given the number of people who get sick from E. Coli every year, it’s safe to say that beef is covered in it.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Correction: That is the only absolute certainty…

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  • Brendon Carr (Korea Law Blog)

    [B]ut nobody wants to go down that road because consumers would then begin demanding that the meat be tested for fecal matter…and given the number of people who get sick from E. Coli every year, it’s safe to say that beef is covered in it.

    Bad news — so is your toothbrush.

  • bumfromkorea

    On a lighter note, I remember this joke from some time ago…

    Why does a cow with Mad Cow Disease taste so bad?

    소가 맛이 갔으니까…

  • WangKon936

    Again… manipulating the facts and people to making something more expensive then it should be just to benefit a handful of people.

    What could be more selfish?

  • cmm

    Why isn’t Hyundai crushing this stream of Mad Cow BS from the yeller media? If US beef issue kills the KORUS FTA, Hyundai is who will lose out.

  • chiamattt

    I wrote a thesis claiming that Koreans were particularly at risk of throwing shit.

  • WangKon936

    # 7,

    Good question. I’d have to say that they are just not organized due to this issue being as big as it is so quickly.

    Paranoia spreads like wild fire and will even sneak up on the park ranger.

  • Railwaycharm


    The U.S. takes food safety very seriously – for Americans and Koreans alike. When concerns arose about BSE, the U.S. instituted measures in 1997 that have been highly effective: there has been NO case of BSE detected in cows born in the U.S. since the feed ban was instituted in 1997.
    There has not been a single case of the human form of BSE (vCJD – variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) among the 300 million Americans who have been consuming the same beef that is being exported to Korea .

    No person anywhere in the world U.S. beef is sold and eaten has contracted the human form of BSE as a result of eating American beef.

    U.S. consumers eat the same beef that is exported to Korea and every other country.

  • Mr Kim

    4. Brendon Carr (Korea Law Blog)
    Bad news — so is your toothbrush.

    That’s why you flush with the seat down.

  • Max Watson

    I’ve been cracking heads over this all week long since it’s the “hot topic”. It’s kept me up at nights too, and during those nights I’ve been collecting and highlighting article after article to show just how insignificant mad cow disease currently is. It’s fun to debate the issue, since most Korean fears about US beef are mostly based on media fear mongering.

    Here’s the crux of it; in America there have been a mere three sick cows. The first sick cow spent the first four years of its six-year life in CANADA, where it apparently contracted the BSE strain that you see in other cases in Canada and Europe that arose from cannibalism. The second cow came from Texas, was an ancient 12-years-old (very unlikely for human food, most cows eaten are about 2-years-old). The third cow came from Alabama, and was estimated at an inedible 10-years-old.

    According to Scientific American, those last two American born-and-raised cows were shown to have a strain of BSE that is unlike the cannibalistic strain. It is believed that, as humans contract prion diseases at a rate of 1:1,000,000 spontaneously, and that other animals like sheep also contract prion dieases such as “scrapie” spontaneously, that cows might be contracting BSE the same way. Scientists believe the Texas and Alabama cows contracted their BSE spontaneously! That means that all cows, all over the world, even in Korea, could spontaneously contract mad cow disease.

    According to the CDC, three people in the U.S. have come down with the human variant of the disease, vCJD–all of them foreigners! The first two were originally U.K. citizens and it is believed that they contracted the disease from U.K. beef. The third was from Saudi Arabia and it is also believed he too contracted the disease from beef in his home country.

    So, we’ve got two sick cows that possibly became ill spontaneously, out of 35 million cows slaughtered annually. We all know that the USFDA doesn’t test every single cow like they do in Japan, but they test enough of them to give a very reliable sample of the population. Based on the number of sick animals found, the OiE says that in 2006 the incidence of sick cows was one in 41,666,667; statistically insignificant.

    Finally, in the U.K., where 97.5% of all mad cow cases have been discovered, and where 84.5+% of all vCJD cases have arisen, there has been a continual decrease in sick cows. From a height of 37,280 sick cows in 1992, to just 10 so far in 2008. Cases of vCJD are also on the decline, with a peak of 28 deaths in 2000, five deaths last year, and currently zero deaths this year (though three people are known to be sick).

    Mad cow is old news. The epidemic is over, and worrying about such a statistically insignificant problem is a waste of time. As Michael said, E. coli is a much bigger problem. So is stomach cancer in Korea, with 20 people dying every day from 1999 to 2003. And stomach cancer is thought to be prevalent here because of dietary choices (i.e. fermented foods high in nitrates, high salt consumption, low fresh vegetable and fruit consumption, and heavy drinking). Kimchi kills, not U.S. beef.

  • Sonagi

    That’s why you flush with the seat down.

    No, that’s why you flush with the lid down.

  • SomeguyinKorea


    Well, Mr. Smartypants, most E.coli are non-pathogenic. The E. coli found on your toothbrush is generally commensal bacteria (ie. the kind that helps your digestion). One of the strains of E.coli that is fairly common in the digestive system of cattle, E. coli 0:157, causes illness in humans.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “It is believed that, as humans contract prion diseases at a rate of 1:1,000,000 spontaneously, and that other animals like sheep also contract prion dieases such as “scrapie” spontaneously, that cows might be contracting BSE the same way. Scientists believe the Texas and Alabama cows contracted their BSE spontaneously! That means that all cows, all over the world, even in Korea, could spontaneously contract mad cow disease.”

    Well, that depends. There is more than one theory on how prions are formed.

  • Chris

    Another voice of sanity speaks out:

    From KT

    “Lee Young-soon, one of Korea’s best recognized authorities on mad cow disease, said Thursday it has already been proven that meat and milk from U.S. cattle are safe for humans.
    `Even specified risk materials (SRMs), including cow brains, wouldn’t pose much of a problem if they are strictly regulated by law,’ he said at a roundtable discussion titled `Mad Cow Disease and Its Safety Concerns,’ organized by the Korean Academy of Science and Technology in Seoul.’’

    And rather obviously:

    “Participants in the discussion said they felt there was a need for more objective explanations in the current debate on U.S. beef safety.
    They also said there was a need to counter Internet rumors with accurate scientific facts.’’

    When hell freezes over.

  • SomeguyinKorea


    Yes, but given that some people will believe anything no matter what scientists say, I’m for testing all the cows. Then again, the nutizens will probably say that the tests results are falsified.

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  • Mr Kim


  • iheartblueballs

    I suggest we have a moment of silence today to remember all the hundreds of thousands of Korean victims of Mad Cow Disease, BSE, vCJD, and Beef Derangement Syndrome.

    May they rest in peace, and please people, never forget the path of death and destruction that this horrible disease hath wrought on Korea and her people.

  • Jainie

    Wait…people, read this

    (or, for people who don’t want to bother, USDA’s info concerning mad cow disease)

    “Surveillance tests are not food safety tests and can only be used for the purpose of statistical analysis. Current detection methodology is limited and OIE suggest that the likelihood of detecting BSE in cattle varies depending on the characteristics of the subpopulation. The closer the animal is to exhibiting clinical BSE symptoms, the better the likelihood of detection. Currently, positive cases have been detected three months prior to clinical signs; however, given that the incubation period is about 4 years long much time exists when infected cattle are tested and false negatives result. According to European data, it is 100 times more likely that BSE will be detected in cattle exhibiting clinical signs of BSE, than in downers on farms; and is 5,000 to 10,000 more times than in healthy 30 month old cattle at slaughter. Another estimate is that the current test methodology has a false negative test rate of 92%, meaning in a population of 100 clinically normal BSE infected adult cattle, 92 would test negative even though infected.

    The U.S. surveillance strategy is to regionally represent the distribution of adult cattle across the nation. The regions are based on the movement of cattle going to slaughter. Each region has different surveillance goals and is treated as an individual country. A scientific approach allows for uniform surveillance across the nation while representing regional differences. Nationally, 12, 500 samples are tested in order to detect one BSE-infected cattle per million. This approach is widely accepted around the world. The U.S. has an adult cattle population of 45 million so if it is assumed that one per million is BSE-infected, than forty-five U.S. cattle would be infected. However, in the accuracy of random sampling of adult animals, three million cattle would need to be tested in order to obtain a 95 percent confidence level.

    The U.S. has an active targeted surveillance plan rather than a random sampling strategy in order to establish a more efficient and effective survey. APHIS focuses on the higher risk population of cattle, which are not going to slaughter. BSE-infected cattle have never been detected under the age of 20 months and 88% of the U.S. slaughter population is under this age. The higher risk population is those most likely to have been exposed to the BSE and it is this population where the disease will more likely be detected. European surveillance testing has defined non-ambulatory cattle as high risk. A survey conducted by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners estimated that 195,000 non-ambulatory cattle exist in the U.S. If it is assumed that 45 BSE-infected cattle can potentially be detected in a high risk population of 195,000, the level of disease that is detected is 0.023 percent. According to a statistical analysis formulation by Cannon and Roe, a sample size of 12,500 is necessary to detect BSE at a prevalence of 0.023 percent. The national sample size of 12,500 established to detect one BSE-infected cattle per million is based upon scientific risk analysis methods. In addition, the OIE has established international surveillance standards for the number of samples to be tested each year within a country. In the last five years, the U.S. has exceeded the OIE recommendation of 433 samples per year.”

    So you test 12,500 when you actually need 3 million.

    Very reliable, I see.

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