Not only does SPAM not have the same negative association attached to it in Korea, but it is loved and almost viewed as a luxury. In my first year in Korea, I was shocked when I visited the local grocery store and found an isle of elaborate and fancy SPAM gift sets. This, of course, got me thinking, "why is this American product which is mostly viewed as 'disgusting' in its home country, so popular in Korea, especially during its biggest traditional holiday?". And the most logical theory I could come up with has its connections to the Korean War.
See during the Korean War, South Korea was not the developed modern country that it is today. It was still very agrarian with many people living in poverty. It used to be that some Koreans would hang outside US Army bases and collect the food that they discarded. Usually this would be things like simple produce, but occasionally cans of SPAM would be thrown out as well. Now to a person from a modern, developed, and wealthy nation, where fresh meat is readily available, it is easy to understand why canned preserved ham would not be very appetizing. However, to a poor farmer, during a time where meat was scarce, SPAM was a delicacy!
So it really comes down to perspective when the food was introduced, but what I find interesting is how that perspective becomes part of the culture even 60 years later when Korea is a modern, developed, and wealthy nation. Today, meat is readily available and yet Koreans still love their can of blended pig parts and preservatives and it is all due to cultural and historical perspectives. Fascinating!