Lee Hyori Hurt Korea’s Meat Industry by Turning Vegetarian?

Top celebrity Lee Hyori officially turned vegetarian last month and now the Hanwoo Board, or the governing body of Korean beef, is accusing her of hurting the overall Korean meat industry. Hyori served as the goodwill ambassador and official spokesperson for the Hanwoo Board for six months from July to December of last year, but became a vegetarian after her contract expired.

“By officially announcing her decision to turn vegetarian shortly after her contract with us as an ambassador expired, Hyori has hurt the overall Korean beef market that’s already suffering from the bad publicity caused by the recent foot-and-mouth disease in Korea,” an official from the Hanwoo Board said. “She not only encouraged consumers to buy Korean beef and promoted our products before, but also told people at her fan signing event held on ‘Korean Beef Day’ in November to enjoy more Korean beef. But now she’s completely changed her attitude and it has damaged the overall image of Korean beef,” it added.

Hyori has signed a six month, 330 million won (291,000 USD) contract with the Hanwoo Board to serve as an official “Hanwoo” ambassador. Her contract was more than three times bigger than the previous ambassador, Choi Bool Am, a veteran actor who received 95 million won (84,000 USD).

“We told Hyori it is regrettable to see her turn vegetarian at a time when our farmers are suffering so much from the recent foot-and-mouth disease, but haven’t heard anything back from her yet,” the Hanwoo Board said. “Since our contract expired, it’s hard to ask Hyori responsible for anything. But we requested Hyori to reconsider her decision of turning vegetarian,” it added.

Netizen responses have been split over this issue so far. Some argue, “Were Hyori’s activities and endorsement for Korean beef all fake?” while others said “Do all Korean beef ambassadors have to eat Korean beef for the rest of their lives? Her contract is over so please stop accusing her.”

Hyori announced her intention to become vegetarian last month. “Hyori stopped consuming any meat from this year and has been sticking to a vegetarian diet with some seafood occasionally. She also drastically cut down on drinking and took up mountain climbing recently,” her agency told local media last month. She’s also become more involved in fighting for animal rights as she’s done some joint activities with the Korea Animal Right Advocates (KARA) lately. She didn’t change her diet during the six months she served as the goodwill ambassador for Hanwoo Board.