SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ U.S. beef will be back on supermarket shelves in South Korea, major discount department stores said Tuesday. South Koreans protested in the streets for weeks when the government decided in June to lift a 2003 ban on imports of U.S. beef.
For months, supermarkets and many restaurants shied away from offering U.S. beef because of strong public opposition to the government decision. But on Tuesday, the Korea Chainstores Association said major discount stores such as E-mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart will begin selling U.S. beef because customers have asked for cheaper meat.
U.S. beef is generally less expensive than domestic beef. Other smaller discount stores, supermarkets and department stores are expected to follow the suit soon, association official Ko Sang-bum said.
The price of U.S. beef to be sold in the three major discount retailers starting Thursday remains under negotiation with importers, he said. South Korea was the third-largest overseas market for U.S. beef until it banned imports after a case of mad cow disease was detected in 2003, the first of three confirmed cases in the United States.
President Lee Myung-bak agreed to lift the import ban in April just before a summit with President George W. Bush a deal that prompted near-daily street rallies by South Koreans concerned the country could be exposed to mad cow disease. The protests forced the entire South Korean Cabinet to offer to resign and led Lee to replace his top advisers and several ministers.