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The Story Behind the New U.S. Beef Measure

Posted June. 04, 2008 03:01,   


A couple of days ago, the argument that a Cabinet reshuffle would not calm the angry Korean public down began to emerge within the presidential office.

Top presidential aides told President Lee Myung-bak that a renegotiation or similar measures were needed.

One official said, “Voices grew louder from Monday afternoon that it will be unfortunate for both Korea and the U.S. if the candlelight vigils turn into anti-U.S. protests, as June 13, the sixth anniversary of two high school girls killed by a U.S. tank, is just around the corner.”

After hearing this, President Lee reportedly decided to handle the U.S. beef controversy head-on. He apparently sought that direction when Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan attended emergency meetings and briefings held for about two hours Monday afternoon.

After the meeting, Yu called in chief negotiator to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement Lee Hye-min to discuss specific measures.

Around that time, National Intelligence Service Director Kim Sung-ho proposed in a report that the posting of new U.S. beef import rules in the government gazette be postponed. He also advised the president to announce a ban on U.S. beef from cows older than 30 months.

As a result, Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun announced a delay in the posting of the new rules, while speculation over renegotiation and secret contact with the United States emerged in the ruling camp.

A government official said, “We explained the suspension of beef products from cows older than 30 months to the U.S. around Minister Chung’s announcement. We informed the U.S. of a possible major change in beef imports. From what I know, the two countries had a secret coordination.”

Seoul announced its plan to suspend imports of U.S. beef products from cows older than 30 months early yesterday morning, the day after it informed Washington of its plan.