Nationality of Food: Food Safety As National Crisis and Nationalistic Ideology in South Korea

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Sana HO , Seoul National University, South Korea
This paper examines food safety issues as national crisis and nationalistic ideology in South Korea. Food safety issues are one of the major issues at stake in South Korea recently. The import of US beef and potential threaten from mad cow diseases had caused one of the biggest protests in Korean modern history in 2008. The risk of agricultural products imported from China is almost the daily topic on mass media. The uncertainty of possible radiated fish from Japan after 311 Fukushima incidents arouse panic around family tables. Food safety is a topic that touches people’s nerves in everyday life.

In this paper, I will analyze the discourses and regulations regarding original places of food productions. My argument is that although food safety is a reasonable issue to worry about, yet in South Korea it is rather a political/nationalistic issue. An agricultural movement called shintobuli in late 1980s had successfully built up an ideology that only domestic food is reliable and good for Korean people’s body and health, no matter how those foods are produced. Regulations to enforce labeling the origins of food production enhance Korean national identity and sentiment towards their domestic products as well as nation. Fear penetrates when evolving foreign food products. Crisis of food safety thus is not only an issue about health and well beings but rather an issue in political arena. It shows the anxiety and senses of threatens when South Koreans have to face other powerful countries around them such as US, China and Japan. Safety only exists inside the door. Nationality is thus not only essential for people, but also for food.