Deafened by Uproar Korea Announce Final Terms

KOREA - Yesterday the Korean government announced its final terms for the import of beef from the US. There have been a number of delays in the official implementation of the April agreement to recommence imports of US beef, with 337 official complaints by civil and farming groups, as well as unanticipated consumer uproar and country-wide anti-government street demonstrations.
calendar icon 30 May 2008
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Once the revised SPS is made official (expected on Tuesday), it will replace the current standards set by Seoul and Washington in January 2006, which limited imports to boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old.

The official notification includes tighter quarantine provisions, including allowing Korea to stop imports immediately if there is another case of BSE in the US. Inspections are anticipated to begin next week, starting with the 5,300 tonnes of US product held in storage since last October. Police have been dispatched to warehouses and ports to deal with anticipated protests.

US product is expected to available to consumers in June, most likely through the Korean restaurant sector. The recent reaction by consumers to US beef has made large retailers and restaurant chains hesitant about recommencing sales of US product right away, fearing a consumer backlash.

The negative reaction to the planned resumption of US beef imports in Korea is having a damaging impact on overall meat consumption, causing sluggish sales of all imported beef, as well as pork and chicken. Consumption has shifted toward fish products in recent weeks, as perceived food safety concerns over BSE and bird flu worsen.

Fear of BSE and anger at the government for its quick decision on US beef, and the perceived lack of quarantine protection for Korean citizens, led to the nation-wide protests by thousands of people, and more recently violence and arrests. The reaction has been exacerbated by the link between the beef issue and opposition to the pending Korea–US free trade agreement.

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