Officials from the U.S. and South Korea met near Seoul today to discuss South Korea's rejection of U.S. beef shipments.
The two-day talks will cover the issue of South Korea's decision to turn away any beef shipments containing bone fragments, the reason it cited in its rejection of U.S. beef. The outcome of the talks could affect free trade discussions in the works between the two countries.
The issue has raised passions on both sides. After South Korea lifted a bovine spongiform encephalopathy-related ban on U.S. beef in 2006, it rejected each subsequent shipment of U.S. beef, citing tiny bone fragments in the shipments. The U.S. responded by angrily accusing South Korea of using the bone fragments to extend the import ban.
Now the South Korean government seems to be split on the issue. Despite the earlier bans, Ambassador Kim Jong-hoon, South Korea's negotiator in the free trade talks, is downplaying the danger of bones in beef shipments. Meanwhile, about 30 farmers protested at the site of the current beef talks, saying that South Korea should not accept any U.S. beef.