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US warns South Korea to lift import barriers. From insurance to beef, firms say they are frozen out

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It will be a short honeymoon for the new government of South Korea - no matter who wins the election. Clayton Yeutter, the United States trade representative, says he intends to pursue quickly a growing number of trade disputes between the two countries. Mr. Yeutter, at a breakfast meeting with reporters, said there have been ``myriad issues in which the Korean government has been extremely protectionist'' at a time when its trade surplus with the US has been growing. Through October, South Korea exported to the US $8.4 billion more than they imported. For all of 1986, Korea exported $7.6 billion more than it imported.

``I probably get more letters today complaining about Korean trade practices than I do any other country in the world,'' Yeutter said. The trade ambassador said the US won't wait long before acting, ``because we can't afford to shelve them [the complaints] since they have merit.''

The US is upset over implementation of an agreement last year to open up Korea's insurance market to US companies. Yeutter maintains that US insurers have experienced ``considerable difficulty'' getting the necessary administrative approvals to begin operations.

``This merits attention because it violates the spirit of the agreement,'' Yeutter says.

American farm products are also being unfairly kept out of Korea, Yeutter says. For example, the US would like Korea to open up its market to US tobacco growers in the same way that Taiwan and Japan are now allowing in US cigarettes.

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