South Korea Cabinet offers to resign over beef imports from USA
By HYUNG-JIN KIM (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
June 09, 2008 10:50 PM EDT
SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea's
entire Cabinet offered to resign Tuesday following a public uproar over
the planned resumption of U.S. beef imports, despite concerns of mad cow disease.
Prime Minister Han Seung-soo tendered
his resignation along with other government ministers to President Lee
Myung-bak, a spokesman at the prime minister's office said.
Government ministers conveyed their
intention to step down to Han during a weekly Cabinet meeting earlier
Tuesday, said the spokesman, Cho Hong-nam.
The president's office said it could
not confirm the resignation offers because Han's meeting with the
president was still under way.
South Korea agreed in April to lift almost all quarantine restrictions that had been imposed on U.S. beef over fears of mad cow disease. The decision has sparked weeks of fierce protests amid perceptions the government did not do enough to protect citizens.
The beef issue has confounded the conservative, pro-U.S. Lee,
who took office in February after a landslide election victory in
December on pledges to boost the economy and bolster ties with
Both Seoul and Washington say U.S. beef is safe, citing the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. Protesters say they can't trust what Lee says.
Scientists believe the disease spreads
when farmers feed cattle recycled meat and bones from infected
animals. The U.S. banned recycled feeds in 1997. In humans,
eating meat products contaminated with the illness is linked to variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal malady.
Lee dispatched several delegations of
officials to Washington on Monday to help defuse the crisis and seek
assurances that the U.S. will not import beef from cattle older than 30
months, even though that is allowed under the agreement.
Younger cattle are believed to be less susceptible to mad cow disease.
Lee hinted at a Cabinet reshuffle Monday when he met Cardinal [Ed.: ???] Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk to seek advice on the beef dispute.
Lee said the National Assembly should
end its fighting over the beef issue soon so that it can conduct
hearings on new appointees in the event he reshuffles his Cabinet,
according to the presidential spokesman.
Thousands of South Koreans have staged rallies against the beef deal. Protests early Sunday turned violent.
Also Monday, police asked prosecutors
to seek arrest warrants for three protesters for violence in recent
rallies, said an officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency
without giving his name, citing office policy.
in the day, a South Korean man died two weeks after setting himself on
fire during a rally, according to Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital in
protester set himself ablaze in a protest last week but his condition
was not life-threatening, said Kim Tae-hyung, an official at a civic
group that has organized demonstrations.
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