US beef ban reinstated after S. Korea protests

June 3, 2008

A week ago, South Korea’s president said the country would resume full imports of American beef. Now, he says he won’t allow any beef from cattle more than 30 months old. The backpedaling came as tens of thousands took to the streets in public protest.

 Chung Woon-chun told reporters at a press conference that until the two sides reach an understanding on the age limit of cattle, South Korea will not post the revised sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards that were agreed on April 18. The move effectively maintains the ban on U.S. beef that has been in place since early October. 

“Because the public is most concerned about meat from cattle over 30 months old, we have asked the United States not to export that kind,” he said.

The 30-month age limit is important because most cattle that have contracted mad cow disease were older animals. The fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans is responsible for over 200 deaths worldwide.

The official added that there will be quarantine inspections of U.S. beef and of the 5,300 tons of beef held in cold storage in South Korea.

“The latest decision is based on a desire to maintain good ties and trust (with the United States) while at the same time reflecting the national interest and wishes of the people,” Chung said.

 Under the revised SPS pact, the United States can export most beef parts to Korea including meat from animals over 30 months old. In the past, the United States was only allowed to ship boneless beef from cattle younger than that age.

“Though it is not easy to make such a request, demands by the public cannot be overlooked,” said an official on condition of anonymity. He said talks may be aimed at an amendment of the April pact and not necessarily a full-fledged renegotiation.

Reflecting public concerns, lawmakers from the ruling Grand National Party, the prime minister and aides to President Lee Myung-bak met earlier in the day and concurred on holding new talks with Washington to revise the age limit.


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