Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 09:37 UK

S Korea seeks US beef guarantees

Schoolgirls demonstrate over US beef imports in Seoul on Wednesday
President Lee Myung-bak's government is in the grip of a political crisis

South Korea's trade minister is visiting Washington to try to secure extra safeguards on beef imports and defuse a political crisis at home.

Kim Jong-hoon will ask US Trade Representative Susan Schwab for a voluntary pledge that beef from cattle over 30 months old will not be shipped.

Street protests have escalated in South Korea over its decision to re-admit US beef imports after a five-year gap.

Protesters are demanding the complete renegotiation of the import deal.

Citing concerns over mad cow disease, or BSE, they have called on supporters to take to the streets again on Friday.

The issue has become a lightning rod for discontent with President Lee Myung-bak.

Protesters are now calling for his resignation - less than four months into his term and despite an offer from the entire South Korean cabinet to resign three days ago.

Free-trade deal

Mr Kim will try to secure a voluntary agreement from US exporters that they will not send meat from older US cattle, backed by some kind of government guarantee.

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon at a news conference in Seoul on Thursday
We have to consider whether it would be a good thing to insist on renegotiation and risk trade retaliation
Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon

But he has refused to bow to demands that the whole import deal be renegotiated, saying that could put a separate free trade agreement (FTA) with the US in jeopardy.

"We have to consider whether it would be a good thing to insist on renegotiation and risk trade retaliation," the minister told a TV talk show Thursday evening, AFP news agency reported.

US deputies have linked the ratification of the FTA with the re-opening of South Korea's market for US beef.

Until imports were suspended in 2003, on the discovery of a case of mad cow disease in the US, Korea was the third largest overseas market for American beef.

Protesters have pledged to take to the streets again on Friday - the sixth anniversary of the deaths of two schoolgirls run down by a US military vehicle, an incident which sparked rallies demanding the withdrawal of US forces from the Korean peninsula.

S Koreans rally against US beef
10 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea sends beef envoys to US
09 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Poll rebuff for S Korea president
05 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Political price paid in beef row
05 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea seeks change on beef deal
03 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
US and S Korea agree trade deal
02 Apr 07 |  Business
Country profile: South Korea
11 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific