On Monday South Korean President Lee Myung-bak chose new ministers to head the departments of agriculture, welfare and education. The move comes a month after the entire Cabinet offered to resign because of the national frenzy over the beef agreement signed in April with the United States. Myung-bak says making these replacements is a chance to start fresh while maintaining continuity by keeping other Cabinet officials. The agriculture and welfare ministers were replaced over the beef deal, while the education minister was replaced over alleged financial wrongdoing at the ministry.
Street rallies and protests of the government's deal to lift the ban of imports of U.S. beef forced Seoul to add an amendment to the beef deal that limits imports of U.S. beef to that coming from cattle 30 months of age or less. The widespread public perception in Korea is that U.S. beef is high risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Prior to the import ban imposed when a case of BSE was found in the U.S in 2003, South Korea was the third-largest importer of U.S. beef.
The new cabinet members must be confirmed by the South Korean Parliament but it remains unclear when hearing will be held because the main opposition party is boycotting the legislature over the beef deal.