July 4, 2008


South Korea legislator submits bill banning US beef from school meals

A legislator in South Korea had submitted a bill banning US beef from school meals, as the product sold well this week despite a public outcry over the government's resumption of US beef imports.


Under the bill, violators of the rule could be jailed up to seven years or be fined KRW 100 million (US$95,700).


School meal suppliers have had potential demand for US beef products, which could cause students to unknowingly consume beef that may contain specific risk materials (SRM), according to legislator Jun Byung-hun, who submitted the bill signed by 25 lawmakers.


SRM have the greatest risk of transmitting mad cow disease to humans. Shipments of SRM to South Korea were mostly banned, except for cow tongues and intestines.


US beef were sold in Seoul's three outlets of A-Meat Co. and sales have so far been surprisingly good, selling out its initial supply of about 400 kg of US beef on Tuesday (July 1, 2008).


South Koreans have taken to the streets since the announcement of the US beef deal. What started off as peaceful candlelight vigils had slowly escalated into violent protests.


Civic activists are boycotting US beef, as they doubt the feasibility of the beef traceability system to track the marketing of US products. They are also calling for a renegotiation of beef import agreement, despite that Seoul and Washington had recently inked a new agreement saying that the US will not export beef from cattle 30 months or older to South Korea.


US beef is sold considerably cheaper than Korean beef; US sirloin is sold at KRW 23,000 (US$22) per kg while Korean sirloin is sold for KRW 68,000 (US$65) per kg.

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