South Korea Resumes Importation of U.S. Boneless Beef

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The Republic of Korea announced on September 7 that it will resume importing U.S. boneless beef, but only from cattle less than 30 months of age.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, in a statement released the same day, said: “Trade resumption in boneless beef is the first step in normalizing trade of beef and beef products with Korea.  We look forward to expanding our access to the Korean market and other export markets to achieve trade that is consistent with international guidelines.”

In 2003, the United States exported more than $814 million worth of beef to Korea, with boneless beef accounting for $449 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

South Korea signed an agreement in January to resume importing U.S. beef.  But several months of “cooperative effort” were needed, according to Johanns, including two visits by Korean audit teams to confirm the efficacy of the U.S. inspection system.  (See related article.)

“We are mindful that significant technical issues exist that must be resolved,” Johanns said in the press release.  “We will continue to work with Korea to address these matters in the coming days.”

In the years between 1988 and 2003, according to the USDA, South Korea became one of the largest beef-importing countries in the world and the second-largest market for U.S. beef products.  But in 2003, South Korea banned imports of U.S. beef after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow” disease) was found in a single cow of Canadian origin in the United States.  (See related article.)

For more information on U.S. policy, see Trade and Economics and The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.

The full text of the USDA press release and a fact sheet on Korea-U.S. beef trade are available on the USDA Web site.