- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) - South Korea’s supermarket chains resumed selling U.S. beef Thursday, nearly five months after the government lifted an import ban imposed over fears of mad cow disease.

South Korea had banned American beef since 2003 when a case of mad cow disease was discovered in the U.S. The government lifted that ban in June _ a move that sparked weeks of violent protests by South Koreans concerned about the health risks.

American beef has been available in small butcher shops and some restaurants, but major supermarkets and larger restaurants have been shying away from offering U.S. beef out of concerns of possible public backlash.

On Thursday, however, large discount department stores including E-mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart began selling U.S. beef at 250 local branches, saying customers are demanding cheaper meat, according to the Korea Chainstores Association.

About 20 civic activists staged a rally in front of a Seoul E-mart store, chanting anti-U.S. beef slogans and voicing concerns about mad cow disease. There were no immediate reports of violence.

U.S. beef is significantly cheaper than domestic Korean brands. At E-mart, U.S. beef was selling Thursday for less than half the price of Korean domestic beef: 100 grams of rump sold for 5,500 won _ about $3.70 _ while an equivalent cut from U.S. cattle was priced at 2,580 won per 100 grams, or about $1.70.

“I think many Koreans will be looking for U.S. beef because it is cheaper and delicious,” said Park Chang-gyu, president of the South’s Korea Meat Import Association.

Small supermarkets and restaurants also are expected to resume selling U.S. beef soon, Korean Chainstores Association official Ko Sang-bum said.

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