S. Korea Considering U.S. Beef Imports

SEOUL - South Korea is considering an option of fully reopening U.S. beef imports through a step-by-step process, possibly including shipments of previously unaccepted parts including bones, reports Yonhap news agency.
calendar icon 21 January 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The discovery of mad cow disease at a U.S. cattle farm in 2003 prompted South Korea to stop all imports of American beef. Seoul partially lifted the restrictions in January 2006, allowing imports of boneless products, but suspended imports last year after repeated discoveries of bone fragments in U.S. shipments.

"The Agriculture Ministry proposed a scenario (to us) earlier in the month that expands the range of acceptable parts to include bones," a source at President-elect Lee Myung-bak's government transition team said, asking for anonymity.

Before last year's ban, Seoul had agreed to allow imports of meat from cattle under 30 months old, but continued its ban on specified risk materials (SRMs).

SRMs include brains, skulls, vertebrae and certain internal organs that run the greatest risk of transmitting mad cow disease to humans.

The ministry was also reported to be considering the removal of the 30-month age ceiling in the future as a possible follow up measure, dependent on U.S. implementation of strict safety standards on its cattle feed in accordance with guidelines by the World Organization for Animal Health.

When asked about such a scheme, a ministry official responded by saying that it is just a standard negotiation strategy.

"Import conditions will be decided upon in (future) talks," the official added.

The transition team for Lee, who will take office on Feb. 25, indicated earlier this month that they will speed up the process to resolve the beef issue.

Beef has become a major hurdle in persuading the U.S. Congress to approve a free trade agreement signed in June last year. The Roh Moo-hyun government in Seoul submitted the deal for parliamentary ratification in the fall.

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