The debate will intensify in the next few days as the Korean government makes good on its agreement to open the market to nearly all US beef. More than a year ago, the government said it would open up to boneless beef, but imports were blocked after X-rays detected bone chips.
Agriculture Minister Chung Woon Chun promised to post new import standards on Tuesday as the first step to reopening the Korean beef market.
Mr. Chung said the ministry had delayed posting the new standards to review upward of 300 complaints on the need for action in case of "an additional outbreak of mad cow disease." He promised "all necessary steps to ensure that public health is not jeopardized."
His remarks, however, appear to have galvanized Lee's foes in a do-or-die stand against beef imports – and against a free trade agreement that needs ratification by both Korea's National Assembly and the US Congress.
"Do not even dream about fooling the public into eating dangerous American beef," Sohn Hak Kyu, leader of the opposition United Dramatic Party, was quoted as saying by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.