S Korea resumes US beef imports

Other News Materials 29 July 2008 12:07 (UTC +04:00)

South Korea has received its first shipment of US beef since imports were banned after BSE - or mad cow disease - was detected in the US five years ago, reported BBC.

South Korea's decision to end the ban in April sparked huge protests and cost three cabinet ministers their jobs.

Critics accused President Lee Myung-bak of compromising the health of South Koreans in order to improve prospects of a free-trade deal with Washington.

The crisis was defused after the government negotiated extra safeguards.

The US agreed to restrict exports to beef from cattle less than 30 months old, believed less susceptible to mad cow disease.

President Lee also publicly apologised for his handling of the issue.

The 1.5 tonne shipment, which included ribs and other cuts, arrived at Seoul's Incheon airport early on Tuesday.

The meat will go on sale after a quarantine inspection that could take up to two weeks, local officials said.

Imports of boneless beef were briefly allowed last year, but then suspended again.

Since then US trade negotiators have been pushing to reopen what was once their third largest beef export market.

The deal signed in April - a complete lifting of the import ban - triggered weeks of near-nightly street protests, forcing the South Korean government to seek extra safeguards.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says that imports may have begun again, but some supermarket chains and restaurants say they are reluctant to sell US beef, fearing negative publicity.