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South Korea agrees to allow restricted U.S. beef imports

June 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

SEOUL — South Korea said Saturday that it would resume imports of U.S. beef after an agreement banning meat from older cattle, an attempt to allay health concerns that have led to weeks of demonstrations against the nation's new president.

Protest leaders said the plan didn't go far enough and held another of their daily candlelight rallies.

Procedures to put the new import agreement into effect were to start Monday, Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said, but it was not clear when American beef would reach South Korean markets.

President Lee Myung-bak, a pro-U.S. conservative who took office in February, agreed in April to allow imports of American beef to resume. Washington refused to renegotiate the deal, worried that it would set a precedent for other countries to back out of trade agreements.

Instead, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the new arrangement -- agreed upon after talks with her South Korean counterpart -- was a "commercial understanding" between U.S. exporters and South Korean importers that only meat from cattle younger than 30 months -- believed to be less at risk for mad cow disease -- would be shipped.

Kim said South Korea would have the right to inspect U.S. slaughterhouses.

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