South Korea May Allow U.S. Beef in Next Week

Government ready with regulations, but protesters plan to fight agreement.

The South Korean Agriculture Minister Chung Woon Chun, told a Korean television audience Thursday that the market for U.S. beef will officially open next week, probably on Tuesday, June 3. The minister sent a request to the Ministry of Administration to print the final protocol since the government has finalized new quarantine regulations that provide for imports of nearly all cuts of U.S. beef without age restrictions.

However the opposition parties in Korea as well as the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, which are big opponents of U.S. beef, have pledged to fight the agreement. More than 7,000 people protested following the minister's announcement.

"We look forward to supplying high-quality, wholesome U.S. beef to South Korea," says U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng, "But this is a volatile situation that changes day by day. We are monitoring events in Korea very closely."

The protestors say the deal doesn't adequately protect the country from BSE. But South Korea's Ag Minister says the government will immediately halt imports if the U.S. detects a new case. He also promised thorough management of the inspection and distribution of U.S. beef.

"The U.S. industry wants to win back the trust of South Korean consumers," says Seng. "U.S. beef exports are accepted by Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Mexico and the European Union. We trust that the facts and sound science will win over Korean public opinion that U.S. beef is safe."

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