The execution of the agreement on beef imports from the USA to South Korea has been delayed due to massive protests. The government of South Korea eventually had to take demonstrators’ requirements into its consideration. The authorities promised not to hurry with the import of US-made beef, which, as many in South Korea fear, may spread mad cow disease in the nation. SKorean officials promised to obtain a security guarantee from the United States.
South Korea ’s Minister for Agriculture, Chung Woon-Chun, stated that the USA agreed to verify beef age for SKorea (not older than 30 months). In addition, it was agreed that the USA would not sell banned by-products (brains, eyes, etc) since they are more infection-prone. It goes about the risk of catching variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease – a human form of mad cow disease.
The US beef imports controversy started in April of the current year, when SKorea’s elected President Lee Myung-bak lifted the ban on the import of US beef. The imports were banned in 2003, when first incidents of mad cow disease were reported in SKorea.
Lee’s rating has declined from 80 to 20 percent as a result of his highly unpopular decision. The president claimed that he originally intended to raise the national economy and guarantee security to the country.
Activists have been demonstrating on the streets of Seoul for weeks to voice their concerns about the possible health risks attached to American beef. The protests prompted the entire Cabinet to offer to resign and a reshuffle of President Lee Myung-bak's top advisers.
On Monday, Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon told reporters that a system would be established to screen meat to determine its age and that South Korea would return any U.S. beef from cattle older than 30 months.
Seoul had been expected to move in coming days to resume American beef imports, but the ruling party and the government decided Sunday to delay the process after seeking the public's understanding on the issue.
The decision appeared to reflect concerns that the government would be accused of arrogance and suffer a backlash if it was to resume U.S. beef imports without explaining the move fully to the public, the AP reports.
Agriculture Ministry spokesman Yoon Young-koo denied newspaper reports Monday that indicated the government would issue a legal notice on the deal within the week. The notice issuance would be a key final step before imports could resume. Yoon said his ministry had no plans to publish such a notice.
Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo called for strict quarantine inspections of U.S. beef to be put in place to ease the public's concerns before issuing the notice, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.