[Outlook]Ghost story

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[Outlook]Ghost story

If your friend told you he saw a ghost on a rainy night at a cemetery, what would you say? You would probably say there are no ghosts and ignore him. But since a broadcaster, which is usually viewed as trustworthy, aired the same story, the entire country was shaken.

The report about a ghost started with scary background music. The camera caught a woman in white clothes with blood-red lips. The program made it look like the ghost had lured someone into a grave. Then, it declares that Koreans have genes that are more susceptible to ghosts.

Viewers were taken aback. Panic ensued, as people feared they might be caught by ghosts. A group of people took advantage of the people’s fear. They spread a rumor that a teenager was dragged off by a ghost. The girl screamed “I’m only 15. I want to live longer!” The entire society is in uproar. The fear grows bigger, turning the country upside down.

A crisis over importation of U.S. beef over the past two months isn’t much different from a TV series about ghosts. There have been countless stories about ghosts but none of them were confirmed to be true. Likewise, there hasn’t been anyone who caught the human variant of mad cow disease after eating American beef. It turned out that the woman in white with blood-red lips was not a ghost. She just happened to be walking down the street at night, wearing red lipstick and white clothes.

Downer cows that the broadcaster had repeatedly shown couldn’t walk, but not because they had mad cow disease, but because they had other problems. The story about ghosts dragging people into graves was not true. People died but their deaths had nothing to do with ghosts. The TV program suggested the possibility that an American woman died of the human equivalent of mad cow disease but it was confirmed that was not the case. The program also quoted an academic study suggesting that Koreans were more susceptible to ghosts but the writer of the study denied that part. Those who sided with the people who made the TV program delivered the bizarre story about mad cow disease. Our so-called civilized society was fooled by ghosts.

But they must feel empty now. They shouted that if one eats American beef one gets holes in the brain, but their efforts didn’t pay off. They did their best to protect the people’s health but people are flocking to stores that sell U.S. beef.

The entire country must feel miserable over this recent row. There have been big fights but nobody won in this game. Everyone lost terribly: the leaders of Korean society, working-class people, the president and the media.

“What are you talking about? We are the winners,” some might say. They can say they gave a deadly blow to conservatives.

But it is too early to rejoice. A majority of people who have remained silent have witnessed their tactics and strategy to use all possible means to achieve their goals. Ordinary people saw how a rumor was created and spread. A person who claimed to be a riot policeman wrote on the Internet that he didn’t want to do service for Lee Myung-bak any more because the president and his minions ordered riot policemen to beat up protesters.

That person was caught by the police and he turned out to be a lecturer at a university. No one will be fooled by such tactics from now on. In this sense, people like this are losers as well. Their defeat will become more distinct after time.

They regard the JoongAng Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo as enemies. They believe left-wing administrations lost power after 10 years because of these three conservative dailies. But that is not true. Conservatives pursue stability in society. They don’t want panic over fears of mad cow disease.

It was those people who claimed to be liberals who wanted such a chaotic situation.

The JoongAng Ilbo has been reporting that there is no serious problem with American beef because it judged that this reading of the situation was closer to the truth. Cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy can’t walk. But that doesn’t mean that all cows that can’t walk have the disease. There are downers in Korea as well. Some argue that Korea is safe from mad cow disease and in the United States three cases of mad cow disease have been found.

But there is no evidence that Korea is entirely safe. We just don’t know whether mad cow disease has occurred here or not, because we haven’t conducted thorough examinations.

*The writer is the economic news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Shim Shang-bok

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