Sunday, December 26, 2010

Annoying Things About Korea #4: Lack of Consumers' Rights

Did You Eat Some Christmas Cake This Year? Hopefully...not.

If you go to Paris Baguette today or anytime during the past week, you would have seen hundreds and hundreds of Christmas Cakes, which have pretty designs and sometimes fruit on top.  Well, a brief newsclip that aired on SBS news yesterday pointed out something that is painfully obvious.  You, the consumer/eater of the cake, cannot believe the labels.  The labels are supposed to put the date until which it is okay to eat the cake.  The fact that you cannot believe the label, and that the makers of the cake are not held responsible if the cake is too old to eat, is just one out of literally thousands examples of how Korea does not defend consumer rights.

In other countries, once the "Good Until" date has passed, good are placed on sale.  In some cases in Korea, this is also true.  However, the SBS news clip showed that these labels were actually removed and replaced with new ones.

It is difficult to say which is more disturbing, the fact that labels are removed and replaced, or whether or not there isn't greater uproar over this practice.  Korean society has become immune to cases like this.  Consumers feel powerless against companies, that the individual has no power to complain.  There are many levels of Korean society in which this exists.  It is the Seoul Gyopo Guide's main thesis:  Korea is a first-world country economically, but its social and legal structure are behind many of the other countries in this same class.  As the economy grows, there will social ills that accompany the growth.  Individuals need to be protected against inadvertent mistakes that harm consumers as well as "errors" that are actually shortcuts in order to improve profitability that could result in harm to individuals.

The problem here is that Korean society doesn't believe in consumer rights because the legal system doesn't punish offenses harshly.  There is almost no doubt that Paris Baguette and other smaller franchises serving Christmas Cakes which are too old to be safely eaten will not be punished.  Perhaps that is why there the facts on SBS (an informative news item) will probably, sadly, be pushed aside.


JK said...

I think a much greater obstacle for Korea will be overcoming the lack of gender equality. You could literally slap a woman on the street and get away with it. I am not claiming that practice is commonplace, however a woman caught in that position should not expect much help even from the police.

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