Beef prices in South Korea are now the highest in the world, the U.S. Meat Export Federation calculates. A strong currency has contributed to the price hike, but so have import duties and the absence of U.S. beef, which once accounted for half of South Korea's beef supply.
After allowing U.S. beef imports this year, ending a 2003 ban related to a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S., South Korea subsequently rejected every U.S. beef shipment sent.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the incoming Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter to the South Korean Ambassador Tuesday asking for clear, transparent and fair rules on beef trade.
"The information we have indicates that South Korea's rejection of these beef shipments was not in keeping with international trade standards," Harkin says. "In order to allow trade between the two countries, South Korea must work in good faith with the United States to set clear and reasonable standards that are fair to U.S. beef producers and exporters."
Harkin also called on the South Korean government to loosen its strict rules against bone fragments in beef shipments. The discovery of pieces of bone in U.S. beef shipments has been cited as a possible reason for the recent rejections.